She was a gift to All

I had a wonderful time recently sharing the life of Virginia Hamilton, sponsored by Ohio Humanities and hosted by the National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center.

We had over 100 participants who joined me as I walked them through Virginia’s life journey, from her adventures as a little girl growing up in Yellow Springs, Ohio to her college years at Antioch College and The Ohio State University, to her beautiful love story with Arnold Adoff, which began in New York City.

The city proved to be an inspiring start for both Virginia’s writing career as well as Virginia and Arnold’s family life. Virginia’s first novel, Zeely, was written while living in New York, and their two children, Leigh and Jaime were born there.

But the call of home, of extended family, was strong and Virginia and Arnold eventually resettled back in Yellow Springs, on a plot of land carved from her family’s original farm. Virginia and Arnold built their dream home, where they raised their children, all the while creating stories and poetry from their respective workspaces. Virginia’s study was on the main floor, and as she looked out her windows beyond her desk, the 100-year-old hedgerow served as a daily reminder of her history.

Virginia was a natural-born storyteller, influenced by the yarns that swirled around her, spun from the hearts and minds of her elders. Virginia drew upon these stories, to craft her own. Virginia referred to these recollections as her “Rememory” which she defined as “an exquisitely-textured recollection, real or imagined, which is otherwise indescribable.”

Virginia wrote forty-one books in her short lifetime. She won EVERY major award extended to writers of children’s literature. Sadly, she left this world all too soon, after quietly and bravely battling breast cancer for ten years.

Virginia is still revered in the world of children’s literature, and her legacy continues through the annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth held at Kent State University. Virginia’s works live on, in libraries, schools, and private collections around the world.

Now, five of Virginia’s novels for young readers are being re-presented by the Library of America. Virginia Hamilton: Five Novels is to be released on September 14, 2021. You may preorder your copy here.

As a final note, I’d like to thank all of those who subscribed to this blog as a result of my presentation. And, the winner of a copy of Virginia Hamilton: Five Novels is Susie Loik.

Ms. Loik offered these kind words upon being informed of her prize, “Your work to bring Virginia Hamilton’s contributions to light are commended. I am learning so much that I wish had been deemed relevant during my years of formal education. She was a gift to All.”

Virginia was indeed a gift to All.

Anonymous

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” -Virginia Woolf

I discovered this quote while doing research for my latest proposed biography for young readers. My subject, even though she has a significant place in history, is unknown. This woman was the first to serve in her role. This woman stood toe-to-toe with men and held her own. This woman dared to buck the system to accomplish what she believed is right. This woman’s story has never been told.

I hope to change that.

I recently took to Twitter to begin an ongoing campaign to promote women in history. I searched through various online portals, such as “this day in history” and “this day in women’s history.” My campaign ended after three days. The ratio of noted accomplishments by men outranked women’s significantly. It is as if we’ve taken the root word of history literally. HIS story.

I hope to change that.

I’ve been blessed to share the life journeys of three amazing women, who have made their own mark in the world.

For years, no one knew that Carolyn Keene was not the actual writer of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. There is no Carolyn Keene. The original author of the teenage sleuth stories was none other than Mildred Wirt Benson. As the very first ghostwriter for the series, Millie was indeed anonymous until her role was made public through a lawsuit. The legal action was filed by the former publisher of the series, Grosset & Dunlap, when the creators of the series, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, made a business decision to contract with Simon & Schuster to publish future Nancy Drew stories. When Millie showed up at the trial in New York City in 1980, Harriet Stratemeyer greeted Millie with a curt, “I thought you were dead.” Nope, very much alive, and no longer anonymous.

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Virginia Hamilton was the most honored author of children’s literature ever. EVER! Virginia was the first African American, male, or female, to receive the Newbery Medal, in 1975 for her groundbreaking novel, M.C. Higgins, The Great. Virginia’s 41 books for younger readers garnered every major award established for authors. Virginia was the first children’s book author to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant.” Her body of work was recognized through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Yet, her books have been buried among the stacks in libraries, her stories rarely shared with today’s young readers.

As a 22-year-old intern with the Miami Herald, sports journalist Christine Brennan made her way through the doors of the locker room of the Minnesota Vikings. It was previously all-male territory, even though a federal judge had ordered TWO years before that female journalists should have equal access to locker rooms. Christine continues to make her mark in the world of sports journalism, often the “go-to” whenever there is controversy or significant news with athletes. Yet, for all the doors that Christine has opened during her years as a sports reporter, a columnist with USA Today, and commentator on ABC News, her story was buried as a lead.

We are on the brink of Women’s History Month. Why just a month when we collectively try and create awareness of amazing female scientists, writers, artists, civil rights activists, educators, and business leaders? Why is there only a month to pull back the curtain on these anonymous makers of history?

Why not make every day a chance to share HER story?

I hope to change that.

Virginia Hamilton…Before Her Time

I’m honored to be sharing the incredible life journey of Virginia Hamilton, the most honored author of children’s literature, ever. EVER! The virtual presentation is Thursday, February 11 at 11 a.m.

I’ll walk listeners through Virginia’s childhood in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to becoming the Newbery Medal winner, and beyond. And, I’ll be sharing an exciting announcement about a collection of Virginia’s works!

I hope to “see” you during this virtual presentation, sponsored by Ohio Humanities and hosted by the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.

Here’s a link to sign up…https://ohiohistory.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_aAGJo1lSQ2WaiVMLOZIAJg