Mildred D. Taylor
Taylor was born in Mississippi in 1943 and grew up in Ohio. "As a child, Taylor visited her great-grandfather’s house built at the turn of the past century, a house that didn’t have running water or electricity" (Johnson & Giorgis, 2006). Some of those experiences and those stories made their way into her writing, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is often Exhibit A.
In her April 1976 introduction to the novel, Taylor credits her father, "a master storyteller" with teaching her about "myself, of life. He taught me of hopes and dreams. And he taught me the love of words. Without his teachings, without his words, my words would not have been" (Taylor, Author's Note, 2001). His stories also revealed "a history not then written in books but one passed from generation to generation on the steps of moonlit porches and beside dying fires in one-room houses, a history of great-grandparents and of slavery and of the days following slavery; of those who lived still not free, yet who would not let their spirits be enslaved" (Taylor, Author's Note, 2001). McDowell (2002) points out that tradition is how the Logan family teaches its history as well:
"History, for the Logan children, is not what they read in books at school because, of course, the African-American history found in the books is fabricated by the dominant culture. The Logan children get their knowledge of history from their family, mostly through the oral tradition. As a result, the children are very connected to their history. It becomes a vital force in their lives. Because it is passed on to them by their elders, history has special significance and becomes an intimate and lived experience" (p. 215).
When Taylor was growing up, not only were there stories of times gone by, but there were still people alive who were born before slavery began to be abolished by President Lincoln in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. The end of the Civil War in June of 1865 brought freedom to slaves in Confederate states, and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution made it official in December 1865. Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras followed, and black Americans continued to suffer. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s did bring about change, but racism runs deep. Taylor came of age during that era, and her voice is a powerful one against the injustices that existed and continue to exist.
Logans Series (in chronological, not publication, order)
- The Land
- The Well: David's Story
- Song of the Trees
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- Mississippi Bridge
- Let the Circle Be Unbroken
- The Friendship
- The Road to Memphis
- The Gold Cadillac
- and a teaser: Taylor "is working on the final installation in the Logan family series, due in 2017. 'I will just say,' she tells me when I inquire about it, 'that it follows Cassie Logan and her brothers from after World War II to the early ’60s and the turbulent days of the fight for civil rights'" (Danielson, 2016).
Awards for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- Newberry Medal
- National Book Award Nominee
- Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book
- ALA Notable Book
- Booklist, Best of the Best Books, 1970-1982
- Kirkus Choice
- The Horn Book Fanfare Honor List
- A New York Times Book Review Best Children's Book 1970-1980
- Pacific Northwest Young Readers Award