Virginia Hamilton

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Hamilton at the Miami Book Fair International, 1991

Virginia Esther Hamilton (March 12, 1934 – February 19, 2002) was an African-American author of children's books. She wrote 41 books, including M. C. Higgins, the Great, for which she won the U.S. National Book Award in category Children's Books[1] and the Newbery Medal in 1975.[2][3]

For lifetime achievement Hamilton won the international Hans Christian Andersen Award for writing children's literature in 1992[4][5] and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her contributions to American children's literature in 1995.[6]


Named for her grandfather's home state,[citation needed] Virginia Hamilton grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio among a sprawling extended family, many of whom owned neighbouring farms where the young Virginia was welcome.[7] Her family encouraged her to read and write widely.[7]

She attended Antioch College and then transferred to Ohio State University.

She met the poet Arnold Adoff while living in New York,[7] and married him in 1960. The two would later return with their children to live on the farm where Hamilton was raised, which her family had owned since the 1850s.[8]

Hamilton's first book as a child was "The Novel".[clarification needed] In 1967, she published Zeely.

Hamilton died of breast cancer on February 19, 2002, in Dayton, Ohio although she was a resident of Yellow Springs.[8] Three books have been published posthumously: Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl (2003), Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny (2004), and Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, and Conversations, edited by Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook (2010).[citation needed][9]


The Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth has been held at Kent State University each year since 1984.[10]

The American Library Association established in 2010 the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award:

To recognize an African American author, illustrator, or author/illustrator for a body of his or her published books for children and/or young adults who has made a significant and lasting literary contribution. The Award pays tribute to the late Virginia Hamilton and the quality and magnitude of her exemplary contributions through her literature and advocacy for children and youth, especially in her focus on African American life, history and consciousness.[11]

Her novel The Planet of Junior Brown was adapted for the 1997 film The Planet of Junior Brown, directed by Clement Virgo.[12]


The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Medals for illustration and for writing are the premier international awards recognizing career contributions to children's literature.[4] The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is the highest honor from professional librarians for contributions to American children's literature.[6]

Beside the 1975 National Book Award and Newbery Medal for M. C. Higgins the Great, Hamilton won several other awards for particular works, including the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award.[13]

Selected works[edit]

  • Zeely (1967)
  • The House of Dies Drear (1968) —Dies Drear, part one
  • The Time-Ago Tales of Jadhu (1969)
  • The Planet of Junior Brown (1971)
  • M.C. Higgins, the Great (1974)
  • Arilla Sun Down (1976)
  • Justice And Her Brothers (1978)
  • Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982)
  • Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed (1983)
  • The People Could Fly (1985)
  • A White Romance (1987)
  • The Mystery of Drear House (1987) —Dies Drear, part two
  • In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World (1988)
  • Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (1988)
  • Cousins (1990)
  • Drylongso (1992)
  • Plain City (1993)
  • Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (1995)
  • Second Cousins (1998)
  • Bluish (1999)
  • The Girl Who Spun Gold (2000)
  • Time Pieces: The Book of Times (2001)
  • Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl (2003)
  • Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny: An Original African American Scare Tale (2004)
  • Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, and Conversations. Edited by Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook (New York: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic Inc., 2010).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  2. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". ALSC. ALA.
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  3. ^ Children's Literature Comprehensive Database.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2013-06-11. With PDF edition of contemporary material.
  5. ^ "Virginia Hamilton" (pp. 86–87, by Eva Glistrup).
    The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  6. ^ a b "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  7. ^ a b c Heins, Paul (August 1975). "Virginia Hamilton". Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved 2013-08-05. 
  8. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (2002-02-20). "Virginia Hamilton, Writer for Children, Is Dead at 65". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-05. 
  9. ^ "Virginia’s Books", author's official website.
  10. ^ Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth, Kent State University.
  11. ^ "Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement". ALA. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  12. ^ "The 10th planet: Clement Virgo explores new worlds in The Planet of Junior Brown". The Globe and Mail, August 2, 1997.
  13. ^ Virginia Hamilton – Awards and Honors. Hamilton Arts. Retrieved 2012-03-30.

External links[edit]