Born on September 13, 1943 in Jackson, Mississippi, Taylor actually grew up in Toledo, Ohio. Her father had suffered racial discrimination, and he wanted his daughters to have more opportunities than he was allowed in the South at that time. Many of her relatives moved north as well, following her family, so Taylor enjoyed a large extended family life. Every year they traveled back to Mississippi, and with her father an exceptional storyteller, they relived their ancestry.
Those tales of her past then left Taylor confused when she studied history in school. The portrayals of African-Americans in the books conflicted with the proud, strong, dignified people of her past. Feeling the need to clarify this bias, Taylor grew up wanting to be a writer. She graduated from Scott High School after having been elected to the National Honor Society, served as a class officer, and worked as editor of the school newspaper. Then Taylor attended the University of Toledo, graduating with an English major before joining the Peace Corps for two years where she taught English and history in Ethiopia.
Returning to the U. S. she worked for the Peace Corps until she decided to gain further education from the University of Colorado. Studying to earn a degree in journalism, Taylor also helped the Black Student Alliance create a black studies program, serving as their coordinator for two years. Moving on, Taylor headed to Los Angeles where she worked as a proofreader and editor while she honed her writing skills and entered contests. When she submitted a story in the Council on Interracial Books for Children competition, she was surprised to discover that she had won the African-American category.
By winning, Taylor's story was sent to publishers for consideration, and Dial Books published her book, Song of the Trees
. Taylor felt compelled to write more about the lives of her characters the Logan family and produced Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
, which resounded with readers and earned her the Newbery Medal in 1977. Over the years she has continued to follow the saga of the Logan family, thereby earning many awards, including the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature in 2003 for her body of work. The Land
is the ninth book in the series, and Taylor is working on her final story called Logan
, into which she will incorporate part of her own childhood.
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