To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve created a series of book lists centered around important African American authors and artists to share each week.
Jacqueline Woodson (b. 1963)
Jacqueline Woodson (b. 1963) is a writer redefining children’s and young adult literature in works that reflect the complexity and diversity of the world we live in while stretching young readers’ intellectual abilities and capacity for empathy. In nearly thirty publications that span picture books, young adult novels, and poetry, Woodson crafts stories about Black children, teenagers, and families that evoke the hopefulness and power of human connection even as they tackle difficult issues such as the history of slavery and segregation, incarceration, interracial relationships, social class, gender, and sexual identity.
Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio. During her early years she lived in Greenville, South Carolina, before moving to Brooklyn at about the age of seven. Her youth was split between South Carolina and Brooklyn.
When asked to name her literary influences in an interview with journalist Hazel Rochman, Woodson responded: “Two major writers for me are James Baldwin and Virginia Hamilton. It blew me away to find out Virginia Hamilton was a sister like me. Later, Nikki Giovanni had a similar effect on me. I feel that I learned how to write from Baldwin. He was onto some future stuff, writing about race and gender long before people were comfortable with those dialogues. He would cross class lines all over the place, and each of his characters was remarkably believable. I still pull him down from my shelf when I feel stuck.”
Woodson is a three-time Newbery Honor winner. After serving as the Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, she was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, by the Library of Congress, for 2018–19. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2020.