Adoff, Arnold

Born: July 16, 1935

Ohio connection: Resident

Yellow Springs

A champion of multiculturalism and an accomplished poet and anthologist, Arnold Adoff was born in New York City. His father had immigrated to the United States from a town near the Polish-Russian border, and the Adoff family was well-read, with a keen sense of their Jewish heritage. At 16, Adoff began writing poetry and sneaking into jazz clubs. He enrolled at the Columbia University School of Pharmacy, but transferred to major in history and literature at New York’s City College and then attended graduate school at Columbia University. Adoff married acclaimed children’s author Virginia Hamilton in 1960, and they lived in Europe for a time. The couple moved back to New York to participate in the civil rights movement. Adoff’s first anthology, I am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by Negro Americans (1968) was a groundbreaking work; and The Poetry of Black America: An Anthology of the Twentieth Century (1973) was one of the largest anthologies of black poetry ever published in the United States. Much of Adoff’s own poetry portrays warm, affectionate family life. Based on his own family, Black is Brown is Tan (1973) was a groundbreaking title of juvenile fiction depicting a loving interracial family. Other collections center on eating, tornadoes, sports, birds, chocolate, and the city. Other notable works include: Malcolm X., illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. (2000) and Roots and Blues: A Celebration, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2011). Adoff’s skill with language and love of jazz make for innovative and inventive verse.  Commenting on his poetry, he has said, “I will always try to turn sights and sounds into words. I will always try to shape words into my singing poems.”  Adoff’s wife passed away in 2002; in 2010 he edited, with Kacy Cook, Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays and Conversations.  Arnold Adoff continues to live in Yellow Springs.


Children’s Books of the Year citation, Child Study Association of America, 1968, for I Am the Darker Brother, 1969, for City in All Directions, and 1986, for Sports Pages; Best Children’s Books, School Library Journal, 1971, for It Is the Poem Singing into Your Eyes, and 1973, for Black Is Brown Is Tan; Notable Children’s Trade Book citation, National Council for the Social Studies-Children’s Book Council (NCSS-CBC), 1974, and Children’s Choice citation, International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council (IRA- CBC), 1985, both for My Black Me: A Beginning Book of Black Poetry; Art Books for Children Award for MA nDA LA, 1975; Books for the Teen Age citation, New York Public Library, 1980, 1981, and 1982, all for It Is the Poem Singing into Your Eyes; Jane Adams Children’s Book Award special recognition, 1983, for All the Colors of the Race; Parents Choice Award (picture book) for Flamboyan, 1988; National Council of Teachers of English Award in Excellence in Poetry for Children for the body of his work, 1988; ALA Notable Children’s Book and Library of Congress Children’s Books for Malcolm X.; The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry for Roots and Blues: A Celebration, 2012.