Mildred D. Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but her family soon moved to Toledo, Ohio. Her father was a habitual storyteller, and by the time she went to high school, Taylor was confident that she would be a writer when she grew up. She attended the University of Toledo, and after graduation worked for two years in Ethiopia, teaching English. She has worked at the University of Colorado, where as a member of the Black Student Alliance she helped establish a Black Studies program.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was first published in 1976, and won the Newbery Medal in 1977. It is set in 1933, in Mississippi--during the Great Depression, when many people were very poor. Poverty is a fact of life for many of the book's charac ters. Although the Logans own their own land, many in the black community are sharecroppers. Sharecroppers are farmers who do not own the land they work. In exchange for the use of the land, the farmers must give a certain percentage of their harvest to the owner.