Milton Meltzer

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Milton Meltzer (May 8, 1915 – September 19, 2009) was an American historian and author best known for his nonfiction books on Jewish, African-American, and American history. Since the 1950s, he was a prolific author of history books in the children's literature and young adult literature genres, having written nearly 100 books.[1] Meltzer was an advocate for human rights, as well as an adjunct professor for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.[2][3] He won the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his career contribution to American children's literature in 2001.[4][5] Meltzer died of esophageal cancer in 2009.[6]

Personal Life[edit]

Meltzer was born in Worcester, Massachusetts to Benjamin and Mary Meltzer, semi-literate immigrants from Austria-Hungary. One of three sons, Meltzer was the only child to graduate from high school, furthering his education at Columbia University from 1932 to 1936, he had to drop out of college before graduating to support his family after his father died of cancer.[7] Meltzer became a staff writer for the Works Project Administration, a program designed by the Federal Government to provide jobs for the millions of unemployed during the Great Depression where he worked until 1939.[8] [9] Meltzer was a staunch advocate for human rights, and much of his work he claimed was his way of speaking out against injustices and dictatorships.[7]

Meltzer wed Hilda "Hildy" Balinky on June 22, 1941. Meltzer served in the military during World War II, and rose to the rank of sergeant. [10] After serving during the war, Meltzer became a writer for the CBS radio broadcasting network and then took an executive position with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.[8] While traveling the country for Pfizer, Meltzer did research at historical societies, local archives and museums and collected nearly 1,000 illustrations to begin a career writing history books with a focus on social justice.[citation needed] Having dropped out of university, he was a self-taught historian, and conducted much of his research in person, even developing his own notation system.[11][7] He originally intended to be a teacher, and did not begin his interest in writing books until he turned 40.[7]

Milton and Hildy Meltzer had two daughters and grandchildren. Hildy Meltzer died in 2008.[12]

Meltzer most recently lived in New York City where he died at the age of 94 from esophageal cancer.[11][13] Many of his personal writings, manuscripts, and papers, including letters, are now housed in the University of Oregon Special Collections, and are available to the public.[14]


Writing & Awards[edit]

Meltzer's books often chronicled struggles for freedom, such as the American Revolution, the antislavery movement of the nineteenth-century United States, and the movement against antisemitism. He wrote several biographies, including ones of Langston Hughes and Thomas Jefferson. Though most of his books are nonfiction he wrote two historical fiction novels, The Underground Man and Tough Times.[15] The Underground Man novel is about a white abolitionist in the 1800s United States who is imprisoned for helping escaped slaves. Tough Times details the life of a young man coming of age during the Great Depression and draws on some of Meltzer's personal experiences growing up during the period.[15] Some of Meltzer's other works focus on topics such as piracy, ancient Egypt, and early American wars with the Seminole people.[16] Meltzer co-authored with Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes, on the book A Pictorial History of the Negro in America which was published in 1956.[17] He additionally worked with Hughes on Black Magic: A Pictorial History of the African-American in the Performing Arts, though Hughes passed shortly after the book went to the press.[15]

Meltzer won several awards for single books and career achievements.[18] In 1981 he was an American Book Award finalist for All Times, All Peoples: A World History of Slavery.[19] Meltzer's Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust was the 1976 recipient of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book, and he won the same award in 1983 for Jewish Americans: A History in Their own Words, 1650-1950.[19] In 2003 he received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the professional children's librarians, which recognizes a living author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children".[20] The committee noted that he "continues to be a model for informational writing today" and cited four works in particular: Brother Can You Spare a Dime?; Ten Queens; All Times, All Peoples; and The Jewish Americans.[21] The two books by Meltzer most widely contained in WorldCat participating libraries are Never to Forget: the Jews of the Holocaust (1976) and Rescue: the story of how gentiles saved Jews in the Holocaust (1988). The latter is classified as juvenile literature and was soon published in a German-language edition. [22]

Other Achievements & Works[edit]

Meltzer was an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1977 to 1980, and a guest lecturer at universities in the United States and England. Additionally he presented at professional gatherings and did seminars for other professionals. [23]He did work on various documentary films such as History of the American Negro and Five.[24]

Works[edit]

Autobiographical[edit]

Non-Fiction[edit]

Fiction[edit]

  • The Underground Man (1972)
  • Tough Times (2007)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Langston Hughes, Remember the Days, and World of Our Fathers were finalists for the National Book Award, Children's Literature.
    "National Book Awards – 1969". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
    "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-08.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2009-09-24). "Milton Meltzer, Author of Nonfiction Books for the Young, Dies at 94". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  2. ^ "Archives West: Milton Meltzer papers, 1955-1973". archiveswest.orbiscascade.org. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  3. ^ Larson, Jeanette (July 2008). "Talking with Milton Meltzer". Book Links. 17: 43–45 – via Academic Search Complete.
  4. ^ "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 2013-03-09.
  5. ^ "The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal". ALSC. ALA. 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-02-19. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  6. ^ New York Times: Milton Meltzer, Prolific Author, Dies at 94
  7. ^ a b c d Larson, Jeanette (July 2008). "Talking with Milton Meltzer". Book Links. 17: 43–45 – via Academic Search Complete.
  8. ^ a b "A City of Words - Milton Meltzer". users.wpi.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  9. ^ Chatton, Barbara (2002). "PROFILE: Milton Meltzer: A Voice for Justice". Language Arts. 79 (5): 438–441. ISSN 0360-9170. JSTOR 41483265.
  10. ^ "Archives West: Milton Meltzer papers, 1955-1973". archiveswest.orbiscascade.org. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  11. ^ a b New York Times: Milton Meltzer, Prolific Author, Dies at 94
  12. ^ "Historian, Author Milton Meltzer Dies at 94". web.archive.org. 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  13. ^ Milton Meltzer obituary (School Library Journal) Archived February 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Milton Meltzer papers archived at the University of Oregon
  15. ^ a b c Larson, Jeanette (July 2008). "Talking with Milton Meltzer". Book Links. 17: 43–45 – via Academic Search Complete.
  16. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2009-09-24). "Milton Meltzer, Author of Nonfiction Books for the Young, Dies at 94". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  17. ^ A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE NEGRO IN AMERICA by Milton Meltzer , Langston Hughes | Kirkus Reviews.
  18. ^ "A City of Words - Milton Meltzer".
  19. ^ a b "Meltzer | Awards & Grants". www.ala.org. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  20. ^ "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 2013-03-09.
  21. ^ "The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal". ALSC. ALA. 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-02-19. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  22. ^ Meltzer, Milton (1988). Rescue: the story of how gentiles saved Jews in the Holocaust. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060242091. OCLC 581700164.
  23. ^ "Archives West: Milton Meltzer papers, 1955-1973". archiveswest.orbiscascade.org. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  24. ^ "A City of Words - Milton Meltzer".

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