During her childhood and young adulthood, Mildred D. Taylor experienced and understood the South—where most of her books are set—in light of her life in the North. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1943, she and her family moved to Ohio after her birth because of her father's impassioned refusal to raise his daughters in a racist society. Though they lived in the North, Taylor and her family never left the South behind, and every year they traveled there to visit family.
Taylor grew to understand and even dread the encounters with bigotry characteristic of her trips to the South—in Something About the Author, she describes being overcome by nausea while crossing over the Ohio River into Kentucky. However, while her Northern town more subtly harbored racial biases, they were no less hurtful than the biases of the South. Taylor often found herself in the dubious position of being the only African American in her class, where she experienced the pressure of being the first example of her race her classmates had ever known. Also troubling were the versions of history and black heritage presented in her textbooks, which perpetuated a subtle brand of racism: they ignored the suffering of African Americans under the white-dominated system of slavery, and they glossed over the tremendous struggle African Americans waged for freedom. No one, Taylor's teacher included, believed her when she tried to explain the truth.
These experiences fired Taylor's desire to write. After Taylor completed her college education, she worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia and as a teacher, recruiter, and editor around the country. In 1973, she wrote her first book, Song of the Trees.Song of the Trees introduced the Logan family, the heroes of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and won the contest for which she wrote it. Continuing to draw on her family history and the stories her family shared when she was growing up, she completed Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in 1977, which was awarded the Newbery Medal. She continued to develop the story of the Logan family in Let the Circle Be Unbroken,The Road to Memphis,The Well: David's Story, and The Land.