Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Biography: Mildred D. Taylor
Mildred Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi September 13, 1944, but her family moved to Toledo, Ohio soon thereafter. She was later quoted as saying she “was born in a segregated city in a segregated state in a segregated America." Believing opportunities farther north would benefit his family, her father opened a factory in newly integrated Toledo. Many members of the extended family surrounded the young Mildred with stories about the family’s past in the Old South. Through annual visits and many stories, Mildred learned about her own family’s history and relationship with the land, which she used as the basis for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in 1976. The book won multiple awards, among them the prestigious Newbery medal (1977). Taylor attended public school in Toledo, where she was the only black student in her class and where many white students reacted with violence when a black student was chosen as homecoming queen her freshman year of high school (1957). After finishing her studies at the University of Toledo, Taylor joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Ethiopia teaching English and history. She was struck by the independence and pride of the black people she met and was determined to integrate the spirit she witnessed into her fiction. Upon returning to the U.S. at the time of the Black Power movement, Taylor earned a Master’s degree at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and contributed to the creation of a Black Studies program there. She later moved to Los Angeles and worked at several temporary jobs while continuing to write. She married Errol Zea-Daly in 1972 and they had one daughter before divorcing in 1975.
Mildred Taylor’s first novel, “Dark People, Dark World,” the story of a blind white man in a black ghetto in Chicago, was never published. Her first novel to be published, Song of the Trees (1973), won first prize (African-American category) from the Council on Interracial Books for Children in 1973 and Outstanding Book of the Year citation from the New York Times in 1975 and the Jane Addams Honors citation in 1976.
Taylor has since written eight more books: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981), The Gold Cadillac (1987), The Friendship (1987), Mississippi Bridge (1990), The Road to Memphis (1990), The Well (1995) telling of the childhood of David Logan, and The Land (2001), which follows the Logan family north to Ohio.
She is a multiple recipient of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, the Jane Addams Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Christopher Award.