Virginia Esther Hamilton (March 12, 1936 – February 19, 2002) was an African-American children's books author. She wrote 41 books, including M. C. Higgins, the Great (1974), for which she won the U.S. National Book Award in category Children's Books and the Newbery Medal in 1975.
For lifetime achievement Hamilton won the international Hans Christian Andersen Award for writing children's literature in 1992 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her contributions to American children's literature in 1995.
The youngest of five children of Kenneth James and Etta Belle (née Perry) Hamilton, Virginia grew up amid a large extended family in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The area has been home to her mother's family since the late 1850s, when her maternal grandfather, Levi Perry, was brought into the state as an infant via the Underground Railroad. Her family encouraged her to read and write widely. She received a full scholarship to Antioch College but later transferred to Ohio State University.
She met poet Arnold Adoff while living in New York City, and married him in 1960. The two later returned with their children to live on the farm where Hamilton was raised. Adoff supported the family by working as a teacher, so Hamilton spent her time writing and had two children.
In 1967, Zeely was published, the first of more than 40 books. Zeely was named an American Library Association Notable Book and won the Nancy Bloch Award. Hamilton published The Planet of Junior Brown, which was named a Newbery Honor Book and also won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1971. M. C. Higgins, the Great (1974) won the Newbery Medal, making Hamilton the first black author to receive the medal. The book also won the National Book Award, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and The New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year.
Hamilton was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (the highest international recognition bestowed on an author or illustrator of children's literature), a MacArthur Fellowship, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the University of Southern Mississippi de Grummond Medal. In 1990 she received the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal, given annually “for continued, distinguished contribution to children’s literature”.
Hamilton died of breast cancer on February 19, 2002, in Dayton, Ohio, aged 65. 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).
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.
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.
- 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 (Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon) (1985)
- A White Romance (1987)
- The Mystery of Drear House (1987) —Dies Drear, part two
- In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World (Illustrated by Barry Moser) (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 (Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon) (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)
- The People Could Fly: The Picture Book (Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon) (2005)
- Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, and Conversations. Edited by Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook (New York: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic Inc., 2010).
- "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation; retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". ALSC. ALA.
"The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2013-06-11. With PDF edition of contemporary material.
- "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.
- "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.
- Heins, Paul. "Virginia Hamilton". Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Fox, Margalit (2002-02-20). "Virginia Hamilton, Writer for Children, Is Dead at 65". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- Biography of Virginia Hamilton, biography.com; accessed February 17, 2015.
- Virginia Hamilton official website, virginiahamilton.com; accessed February 17, 2015.
- Wulf, Steve (2015-03-23). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
- Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth, Kent State University, kent.edu; accessed February 17, 2015.
- "Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement", ala.org; retrieved 2013-02-11.
- "The 10th planet: Clement Virgo explores new worlds in The Planet of Junior Brown". The Globe and Mail, August 2, 1997.
- Virginia Hamilton – Awards and Honors, virginiahamilton.com; retrieved 2012-03-30.
- Official website
- "Virginia Hamilton, Writer for Children, Is Dead at 65", Margalit Fox, The New York Times, February 20, 2002
- "Hans Christian Andersen Award 1992", IBBY — pages 5–6 cover Hamilton (images 7–8)
- Virginia Hamilton at Library of Congress Authorities, with 64 catalog records