"I do not know how old I was when the daydreams became more than that, and I decided to write them down, but by the time I entered high school, I was confident that I would one day be a writer."
Though she was born in Mississippi, Mildred Delois Taylor spent her childhood -- all the way up through college -- in Toledo, Ohio. She lived with her parents, Wilbert Lee and Deletha Marie, sister, Wilma, and -- at times -- a number of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her father, "a master storyteller," profoundly influenced his daughter; "Throughout my childhood he impressed upon my sister and me that we were somebody, that we were important and could do or be anything we set our minds to be."
Though the Civil War was long over, Taylor's life was filled with residual prejudice; from segregated schools to Anglo-biased textbooks, Mildred Taylor and the other African Americans of her time were inundated with negative images of her race. "From as far back as I can remember, my father taught me a different history from the one I learned in school."
It was the desire to correct this misshapen image that drove Taylor to write. "By the time I entered high school, I had a driving compulsion to paint a truer picture of Black people. I wanted to show the endurance of the Black world, with strong fathers and concerned mothers; I wanted to show happy, loved children…I wanted to show a Black family united in love and pride, of which the reader would like to be a part."
Before beginning her career, though, she graduated from the University of Toledo in 1965, served in the Peace Corps as an English and History teacher in the U.S. and Ethiopia, and received a master's degree in English from the University of Colorado in 1969. While there, Taylor cofounded a black students' group and a black studies department. She stayed on at Colorado after graduation and worked there, in the study skills center, for two years.
In the early 1970s, though, Taylor left gainful employment for a series of temporary editing and proofreading jobs that allowed her time to write. Ironically, it was not only her father's stories, but also the deadline for a writing contest that inspired Taylor's first novel. Written in just four days, Song of Trees won the contest it was written for and began the epic of the Logan family, which would carry the unsuspecting Taylor through five more novels. Two years after Song was written, it was cited by the New York Times as Outstanding Book of the Year.
Though well received, Song was only a minor success compared to Taylor's second Logan family novel. Written in 1974, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry received the highest honor a children's book can receive -- the Newbery Medal -- and was cited as an American Library Association notable Book. Roll of Thunder was also a finalist for a National Book Award. It remained a children's best-seller for sixteen years.
By 1990, the year Taylor's sixth Logan family title (The Road To Memphis) was published, the series had earned her one Coretta Scott King Award and two citations for Notable Children's Books in the Field of Social Studies.
"It is my hope that [this series of children's books about the Logan family]…will one day be instrumental in teaching children of all colors the tremendous influence of Cassie's generation -- my father's generation -- had in bringing about the great Civil Rights movement of the fifties and sixties. Without understanding that generation and what it and the generations before it endured, children of today and of the future cannot understand or cherish the precious rights of equality which they possess."
Mildred Taylor presently lives in Colorado.