Virginia Hamilton has gained renown for a number of her works, notably for M. C. Higgins, the Great (1974), which won the Newbery Medal, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and the National Book Award. Her books The Planet of Junior Brown (1971) and Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982) were also awarded Newbery Medals. In addition, she was given the Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best juvenile mystery for The House of Dies Drear (1968).
In The People Could Fly, Hamilton drew on her considerable talent and her African American heritage in order to pull together these tales of black American folklore and to create a coherent glimpse into the culture that generated them. The People Could Fly could be used to give young readers a portrait of the early years of the evolving black culture in the United States. It can provide insight into the minds of an oppressed population and how the members of that population cope with adversity. Hamilton has chosen tales that highlight humor and cleverness. The tales should enchant and entertain readers and listeners of many ages. Some of the stories will be familiar to most readers, while others will not. All can be taken at two levels: as entertainment and as a way to look into the hearts and souls of slaves.