Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Mildred Delois Taylor has distinguished and endeared herself to thousands of readers, young and old, through her unique depiction of the American black experience, both painful and joyful, both traumatic and heroic. She was born in the segregated South to parents who did not want to raise their children under racism. When Taylor was still an infant, the family moved from Jackson, Mississippi, to Toledo, Ohio, where her father found employment in a factory. In the course of the family’s frequent journeys south to visit relatives, Taylor became sensitive to the different manifestations of racial prejudice in the North and South. The family had to drive through the night when motels did not accept them, and they had to avoid the main roads for fear of being pulled over and harassed by police. (The story of such humiliation and fear would eventually be told in her novella The Gold Cadillac.) Taylor also learned a great deal about the South through the family stories that riveted her attention and that would provide both the inspiration and much of the content for her Logan stories.
Racism was not confined to the South, however. On a family trip to California when she was nine, Taylor discovered that for them second-class citizenship stretched from coast to coast: There were motels and restaurants all along the way that did not welcome blacks. She learned more about America when she and her family moved into a solid middle-class neighborhood and watched their white neighbors raise the For Sale signs in their front yards. The desire to tell the truth of her people’s experience grew inside the young student, especially when she noted again and again that her school texts consistently rendered a distorted version of black history in America. However, the stories she wrote during her high school and college years were not yet publishable, and her aspirations to become a writer were put on hold when, after graduating from the University of Toledo in 1965, Taylor joined the Peace Corps and taught English and history for two very happy years in Ethiopia. In September, 1968, she enrolled in the School of Journalism at the University of Colorado. There she also became a leader in the Black Student Alliance, which helped bring...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Bosmajian, Hamida. “Mildred Taylor’s Story of Cassie Logan: A Search for Law and Justice in a Racist Society.” Children’s Literature 24 (1996): 141-160. A perceptive essay that explores the treatment of racism and justice in Taylor’s works, especially in relation to Cassie Logan. A solid examination of themes common to Taylor’s writings.
Crowe, Chris. Presenting Mildred D. Taylor. New York: Twayne, 1999. This introduction to Taylor and her work provides biographical information; cultural context, especially of the Civil Rights movement, for her novels; critical analysis; and a bibliography.
Harper, Mary Turner. “Merger and Metamorphosis in the Fiction of Mildred D. Taylor.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 13 (Summer, 1988): 75-80. Examines the first four books as culturally conscious fiction.
Osa, Osayimwense. “Africanism in African American Children’s Literature: Mildred Taylor’s Song of the Trees and The Friendship and Eleanora Tate’s The Secret of Gumbo Grave.” Obsidian 3 (Spring, 2001): 89-99. Discusses the way the two writers, in drawing upon their childhoods for their fiction, also demonstrate the continuities of African themes in African American literature.
Scales, Pat. “Mildred D. Taylor: Keeper of Stories.” Language Arts 80 (January, 2003): 240-244. A short profile of Taylor and her novels.
Smith, Karen. “A Chronicle of Family Honor: Balancing Rage and Triumph in the Novels of Mildred D. Taylor.” In African American Voices in Young Adult Literature: Tradition, Transition, Transformation, edited by Karen P. Smith. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994. Smith explores the treatment of the African American family in Mississippi during the Depression.
Taxel, Joel. “Reclaiming the Voice of Resistance: The Fiction of Mildred Taylor.” In The Politics of the Textbook, edited by Michael W. Apple and Linda K. Christian-Smith. New York: Routledge, 1991. Demonstrates Taylor’s power and the forthrightness of her treatment of African American history and heritage, particularly in her first two novels.