Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia and American Library Association)

Virginia Esther Hamilton Adoff

(March 12, 1936 – February 19, 2002)

Born and raised in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Hamilton lived on a farm her family owned since the 1850s. Encouraged at a young age to read and write, she earned a full scholarship to Antioch College but decided to attend Ohio State University.  In 1960, Hamilton met and married Arnold Adoff, and the couple eventually moved back to the Hamilton’s family farm in Yellow Springs. Her husband supported his family and wife’s writing by working as a teacher.

Her first book, Zeely, was published in 1967; in total, she published more than 40 children's books. In 1971, her book The Planet of Junior Brown earned a Newbery Honor Book medal and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.  In 1974, Hamilton wrote the book M.C. Higgins, the Great, which went on to win the Newbery Medal Award, making Hamilton the first Black female writer to win the award. The book also won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, National Book Award, New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year, and Boston Globe’s Horn Book Award.

Throughout her career, she was a celebrated and popular children’s author. She won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal, and Southern Mississippi’s de Grummond Medal. In 2010, the American Library Association established the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award, and the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth has been held annually at Kent State University since 1984.  In 1997, a film based on her novel The Planet of Junior Brown, was adapted and directed by Clement Virgo. Hamilton passed away from breast cancer on February 19, 2002 in Dayton, Ohio. She was 68 years old.  Her final resting place is private.  Virginia Hamilton


  • Zeely (1967)
  • The House of Dies Drear (1968) (Part One - Dies Drear)
  • The Time-Ago Tales of Jadhu (1969)
  • The Planet of Junior Brown (1971)
  • W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography (1972)
  • Time-Ago Lost: More Tales of Jahdu (1973)
  • M.C. Higgins, the Great (1974)
  • Paul Robeson: The Life and Times of a Free Black Man (1974)
  • The Writings of W .E. B. Du Bois (1975)
  • Arilla Sun Down (1976)
  • Justice And Her Brothers (1978) (Book One - Justice Trilogy)
  • Dustland (1980) (Book Two - Justice Trilogy)
  • Jahdu (1980)
  • The Gathering (1981) – (Book Three - Justice Trilogy)
  • Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982)
  • Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed (1983)
  • The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl (1983)
  • A Little Love (1984)
  • Junius Over Far (1985)
  • The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon) (1985)
  • A White Romance (1987)
  • The Mystery of Drear House (1987) —(Part Two - Dies Drear)
  • 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)
  • The Bells of Christmas (1989)
  • Cousins (1990)
  • The Dark Way: Stories from the Spirit World (1990)
  • The All Jahdu Storybook (1991)
  • Drylongso (Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney) (1992)
  • Plain City (1993)
  • Many Thousand Gone (1993)
  • Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon) (1995)
  • Jaguarundi (1995)
  • When Birds Could Talk & Bats Could Sing: The Adventures of Bruh Sparrow, Sis Wren, and Their Friends (1996)
  • A Ring of Tricksters: Animal Tales from America, the West Indies, and Africa (Illustrated by Barry Moser) (1997)
  • 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 (Illustrated by James Ransome) (2003)
  • Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny: An Original African American Scare Tale (Illustrated by Barry Moser) (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) (2010)

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