Prepared by Susan Walters, April 1995; Revised February 1996; July 2002; September
1 document case + oversized materials, 1.5 cubic feet, 11th floor
Virginia Hamilton, born and raised in Yellow Springs, Ohio, was an internationally recognized writer of fiction for children and young adults. In 1975, she was the first African-American woman to win the Newbery Award, an award given for "the most distinguished contribution to the literature for children," for M.C. Higgins the Great, for which she also won the National Book Award and the Boston Globe Horn Book Award. Since then three other books written by Hamilton received the Newbery Award. In addition she received every major award and honor accorded American authors of literature for youth including the Coretta Scott King Award, also received three times, most recently for The People Could Fly, a collection of African American folktales. Hamilton was also awarded a "genius grant" in 1995 as a fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Kent State University awarded Hamilton an honorary doctorate in humane letters in 1997. Virginia Hamilton died in February of 2002 after a 10-year battle with breast cancer.
The collection of manuscripts once on deposit with Kent State University's Department of Special Collections and Archives has, at the request of Hamilton's family, been transferred to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. for permanent housing. The remaining collection at Kent State contains biographical information about Hamilton, some essays and articles, selected correspondence and photographs, and a sampling of publishers' promotional materials. The Department of Special Collections and Archives also houses an extensive collection of Hamilton's books. Search KentLINK for holdings information.
A Conference in Hamilton's honor is conducted annually every spring at Kent State University. The First Virginia Hamilton Lectureship on Minority Group Experiences in Children's Literature was held in the Kent State University Student Center on Friday, April 12, 1985. The day-long program established a variety of workshop sessions on issues and topics preceded by a keynote address given by Virginia Hamilton. Although the name was changed from Lectureship to Conference, the day-long program concept with keynote speakers and concurrent workshop sessions has continued throughout the years.
The Virginia Hamilton Conference is currently coordinated by Anthony Manna (College of Education) and Carolyn Brodie (School of Library and Information Science). The Records of the Conference, housed in Special Collections and Archives, are also available to researchers.