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Tate, Eleanora E. 1948–

Tate, Eleanora E. 1948–

(Eleanora Elaine Tate)

Personal

Born 1948, in Canton, MO; daughter of Clifford and Lillie Tate; married Zack E. Hamlett III (a photographer), August 19, 1972; children: Gretchen R. Education: Drake University, B.S. (journalism), 1973.

Addresses

Home—Knightdale, NC. E-mail—ablessing@members.authorsguild.net.

Career

Iowa Bystander, West Des Moines, news editor, 1966-68; Des Moines Register and Des Moines Tribune, Des Moines, IA, staff writer, 1968-76; Jackson Sun, Jackson, TN, staff writer, 1976-77; Kreative Koncepts, Inc., Myrtle Beach, SC, writer and researcher, 1979-81; Positive Images, Inc., Myrtle Beach, president and co-owner with husband, Zack E. Hamlett III, 1983-93; full-time writer, 1993—. Writer-in-residence, Elgin, SC, Chester, SC, and the Amana colonies, Middle, IA, all 1986; instructor at Institute of Children's Literature, W. Redding, CT, beginning 2006; North Carolina Central University, Durham, adjunct instructor, beginning 2007; Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, associate professor in M.A. low-residency program, 2009—. Contributor to black history and culture workshops; seminar leader for creative-writing retreats; participant in poetry readings. Member of South Carolina Arts Commission Arts in Basic Curriculum steering committee, 1988-90; presenter at conferences; guest speaker.

Member

Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. (member of board,

1988-92, president, 1991-92), South Carolina Academy of Authors, South Carolina Arts Commission Artists in Education, North Carolina Writers Network (member of board, 1996-97), Horry County Cultural Arts Council (member of board, beginning 1987, vice president of board, 1988-90, president of board of directors, 1990-92), Wake County (NC) Reading Council of International Reading Association.

Awards, Honors

Finalist, Third World Writing Contest, Council for Interracial Books for Childre, 1973; Unity Award for educational reporting, Lincoln University, 1974; Community Lifestyles award, Tennessee Press Association, 1977; Bread Loaf Writers Conference fellowship, 1981; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1987, and California Young Reader Medal Award nomination, 1991, both for The Secret of Gumbo Grove; Presidential Award, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Georgetown chapter, 1988; Grand Strand Press Association Award for Social Responsibilities and Minority Affairs Second Place, 1988; Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)/Children's Book Council (CBC), and Children's Book of the Year selection, Child Study Children's Book Committee, both 1990, both for Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!; resolution in recogni- tion of literary and community efforts in South Carolina, South Carolina State House of Representatives and Senate, June 9, 1990; Grace Brooks Memorial Humanitarian Award, South Carolina Action Council for Cross-Cultural Health and Human Services, 1991; Pick of the Lists designation, American Booksellers Association (ABA), 1992, for Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, and 1996, for A Blessing in Disguise; Zora Neale Hurston Award (with John Hope Franklin), National Association of Black Storytellers, 1999; Dr. Annette Lewis Phinazee Award, North Carolina Central University, 2000; Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, 2001, for The Minstrel's Melody; named Honorary Citizen of Chattanooga, TN, 2004; Iowa Author Award, Des Moines Library Foundation, 2004; American Association of University Women North Carolina Book Award for Juvenile Literature, 2007, and International Reading Association Teachers' Choice Award, 2008, both for Celeste's Harlem Renaissance.

Writings

FOR YOUNG READERS

Just an Overnight Guest, Dial (New York, NY), 1980, reprinted, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1997.

The Secret of Gumbo Grove, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1987.

Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1990.

Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, Bantam/Skylark (New York, NY), 1992.

Retold African Myths, Perfection Learning, 1992.

A Blessing in Disguise, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1995.

Don't Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.

African American Musicians (nonfiction), Wiley (New York, NY), 2000.

The Minstrel's Melody, Pleasant Company Publications (Middleton, WI), 2001.

To Be Free (nonfiction), Steck-Vaughn, 2003.

Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.

OTHER

(Editor with husband, Zack E. Hamlett III; and contributor) Eclipsed (poetry), privately printed, 1975.

(Editor and contributor) Wanjiru: A Collection of Blackwomanworth, privately printed, 1976.

Contributor to books, including Rosa Guy, editor, Children of Longing, Bantam (New York, NY), 1970; Impossible?, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1972; Communications (juvenile), Heath, 1973; Off-Beat (juvenile), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1974; Sprays of Rubies (anthology of poetic prose), Ragnarok, 1975; Valhalla Four, Ragnarok, 1977; Talk That Talk: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling, edited by Linda Goss and Marian Barnes, Simon & Schuster, 1989; In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers: A Black Family Treasury by Outstanding Authors and Artists, compiled by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, Just Us Books, 1997; Winning Authors Share Real-Life Experiences through Fiction, edited by Jerry M. and Helen S. Weis, Forge, 2000; Black Stars of the Harlem Renaissance, edited by Jim Haskins, Wiley, 2002; Big City Cool: Short Stories about Urban Youth, Persea Books, 2002; Black Stars of the Civil Rights Movement, edited by Jim Haskins, Wiley, 2003; and Sayin' Something, Stories from the National Association of Black Storytellers, Morris Publishing, 2006. Contributor of stories, poems, and essays to periodicals, including African American Review, American Girl, Baltimore Afro-American, Book Links, Charleston Chronicle, Des Moines Register Picture Magazine, Dream/Girl, Goldfinch, Journal of Black Poetry, Journal of African American Children's Literature, Obsidian III, Myrtle Beach Journal, New Advocate Journal, Newsday, Storyworks, and Washington Post.

Adaptations

Just an Overnight Guest was adapted in 1983 as a television film directed by Gina Blumenfeld, Nickelodeon/PBS. The Secret of Gumbo Grove was adapted as a play published in Scholastic Action magazine, 1993. The Secret of Gumbo Grove and Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! were adapted as audiobooks, Recorded Books, 1997 and 1998 respectively.

Sidelights

In novels that include Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, A Blessing in Disguise, and Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, Eleanora E. Tate combines depictions of warm family relationships—especially between fathers and daughters—with important social themes. Over the course of her career, Tate has been consistently praised for addressing complex issues such as racial understanding and appreciation, cultural and racial identity in history, neglect and abuse, individual and group pride, and family ties. "I have gotten a thrill out of writing about children," Tate once commented. "Part of it … stems from my belief that I had a very happy childhood, with a certain richness to it that I want today's children to share."

Tate was born in 1948 in Canton, a small town in northeastern Missouri. Legal segregation was still enforced during her early childhood, and she attended first grade in 1954 at the town's one-room grade school for African Americans. The following year her class was integrated into Canton's white school system. Tate's first middle-grade novel, Just an Overnight Guest, and its sequel both take place in Nutbrush, Missouri, a small town modeled on her childhood experiences in Canton.

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In Just an Overnight Guest, nine-year-old Margie Carson becomes angry when her mother invites Ethel Hardisen, a disruptive four year old who has been abused and neglected, to stay with the family for a night. Ethel's visit is mysteriously extended, despite her bad behavior, and Margie begins to see the young visitor as competition for her parents' affection. With the help of her loving father, Margie eventually overcomes her anger and resentment, and she learns to accept the now permanent guest whom she discovers is her irresponsible Uncle Jake's daughter. In an appraisal of Just an Overnight Guest, New York Times Book Review contributor Merri Rosenberg concluded that "Tate does a fine job presenting the emotional complexities of Margie's initiation into adult life's moral ambiguities," while Horn Book critic Celia Morris praised the author for capturing "the nuances of small-town life, the warmth of a Black family struggling with a problem, and the volatile emotions of a young child."

Tate returns readers to Nutbrush in Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, a sequel to Just an Overnight Guest that is based on her own childhood memories and family stories. Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School finds Margie and Ethel three years older. During this particular summer, they are sitting around on a hot summer night, bored. Then Margie's dad takes the girls for a walk to the one-room school that once served as the grade school for the town's African-American children. In a way that brings to life the strong, loving bond between father and daughter, the man tells several stories about his childhood that entertain the girls and also teach them something important about their ethnic heritage. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the book's "evocative language."

The Secret of Gumbo Grove introduces an eleven-year-old girl named Raisin Stackhouse. A history buff, Raisin decides to explore the history of her own town, but she inspires a less-than-enthusiastic response when she reveals old prejudices. Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Linda Classen praised The Secret of Gumbo Grove for illustrating "life in a black community before blacks had rights," a time "which … not many young people today can comprehend." In the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Betsy Hearne wrote that the book "will be satisfying for young readers, who can enjoy this as a leisurely, expansive reading experience."

Also set in Gumbo Grove, Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! is narrated by fourth-grader Mary Elouise Avery. Mary Elouise yearns to be in the school play about presidents with a conceited, blond-haired classmate whom she idolizes. Instead, she is selected as narrator for the new black history skit, even though she is ashamed of being black and hates being reminded of slavery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through the visits of two storytellers and the efforts of her wise grandmother, Mary Elouise comes to appreciate her heritage. In the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Zena Sutherland praised Tate for not falling prey to racial stereotyping. "One of the strong points of her story," Sutherland stated, "is that there is bias in both races, just as there is understanding in both." In Booklist Denise Wilms echoed Sutherland's sentiments, writing that "Tate tackles a sensitive issue, taking pains to keep characters multi-dimensional and human."

A Blessing in Disguise, Tate's third "Gumbo Grove" novel, weaves issues of drugs and crime in a small community into a story centered on the relationship between a girl and her not-so-wise-and-stable father. In this story, twelve-year-old Zambia Brown lives with her poor aunt and uncle in the small coastal town of Deacons Neck, South Carolina. Zambia's real father, called Snake, is the shady, drug-dealing owner of a nightclub in Gumbo Grove. Zambia longs to be part of her father's seemingly glamorous life, and she is excited when Snake opens a second nightclub on her block in Deacons Neck. After her uncle joins with others in the community in an effort to close the club, a rift forms in his relationship with Zambia. Their bond is healed only when the girl gains firsthand experience with the consequences of her father's activities. A Blessing in Disguise "deals realistically with a small community's battle against drugs and crime and a girl's development of a healthy attitude toward her irresponsible father," maintained Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Becky Kornman. Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Roger Sutton noted that Tate's story "is saved from preachiness by Zambia's impulsive, colloquial narration and her true-to-twelve fascination with the night life and its supposed glamour."

Tate's contribution to Pleasant Company's popular "American Girl History Mysteries" series, The Minstrel's Melody takes readers back to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Missouri. Twelve-year-old Orphelia loves to play the piano and sing, but her mother does not encourage her to develop her musical talent. In an effort to follow her dream, Orphelia leaves her rural home in Calico Creek, running away and joining an all-black traveling minstrel show on its way to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. In addition to gaining in maturity and confidence, Orphelia uncovers a piece of tragic family history that is grounded in racism. In Booklist Denise Wilms described The Minstrel's Melody as "an enjoyable story" that "effectively portrays … the trials of a musically gifted child." Tate captures the "strong sense of community" existing in both Orphelia's small rural hometown and the traveling troupe of minstrels, School Library Journal contributor Robin L. Gibson observed, adding that "historical elements, such as the use of blackface in theater, are woven almost seamlessly into the narrative."

Tate takes another look back into the past in Celeste's Harlem Renaissance. The book opens in 1921, as thirteen-year-old Celeste Lassiter Massey prepares for a change in her circumstances. Living in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her widowed father and his sister, Celeste is sent north to New York City to live with Aunt Valentina in Harlem after her father is diagnosed with tuberculosis. Valentina has always aspired to a career on Broadway, but when Celeste arrives she is disappointed to find that her aunt has been working at manual labor to make ends meet. Ultimately, she learns to appreciate Valentina's willingness to pursue her dreams, and she also is encouraged to develop her musical talents by her exposure to the creative energy of the Harlem Renaissance. Discussing the character of Celeste, a Publishers Weekly contributor explained that Tate creates "a fully realized heroine, whose world expands profoundly as she's exposed to both the cultural pinnacles and racial prejudices of her era." In Booklist Gillian Engberg described Celeste's Harlem Renaissance as "a moving portrait of growing up black and female in 1920s America," while in School Library Journal Joyce Adams Burner wrote that the author "deftly handles the complexities" of interfamilial relationships and "draws her characters with charming humor and multidimensional candor." The heroine's "wide-eyed observations" in Celeste's Harlem Renaissance "pull readers into the thrills and fears of her rapidly expanding world," concluded Horn Book contributor Claire E. Gross.

In addition to her middle-grade novels, Tate has also written poetry, short stories and essays for children. She collects seven entertaining stories in Don't Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, each inspired by such well-known sayings as "You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks." Reviewing the collection for Booklist, Susan Dove Lempke praised Tate's "light, funny" folk-inspired stories, which feature "lively and realistic" characters. Noting the "memorable characters" that come to life in the collection, a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "adult rules and regulations are turned on their heads" in Tate's stories, which "leap off the page and lodge straight in the funny bone."

In another collection, African American Musicians, Tate spans two centuries as she introduces the men and women whose creative talents contributed to the rich tapestry of American music. From Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield and Scott Joplin to Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, and Queen Latifah, African American Musicians will "inspire further study on individual musicians," according to School Library Journal reviewer Janet Woodward.

Explaining the inspirations behind her career writing for children, Tate once commented: "I would like to

add my voice in print, as well as my emotions, to the thought that children's childhoods can be happy if they can learn that they can do anything they set their minds to, if they try." Tate has also inspired others in her family to focus their creative talents in the arena of children's books; her nephew, artist Don Tate, has contributed many illustrations to titles for young readers.

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Children's Literature Review, Volume 37, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1980, review of Just an Overnight Guest, p. 408; May 15, 1987, review of The Secret of Gumbo Grove, pp. 1450-1451; April 15, 1990, Denise Wilms, review of Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, p. 1636; August, 1992, Deborah Abbott, review of Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, p. 2014; November 1, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Don't Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, p. 474; April 1, 2001, Denise Wilms, review of The Minstrel's Melody, p. 1488; February 1, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, p. 58.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1980, review of Just an Overnight Guest, p. 42; June, 1987, Betsy Hearne, review of The Secret of Gumbo Grove, p. 199; June, 1990, Zena Sutherland, review of Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, p. 254; February, 1995, Roger Sutton, review of A Blessing in Disguise, p. 216.

Horn Book, December, 1980, Celia Morris, review of Just an Overnight Guest, pp. 643-644; May-June, 2007, Claire E. Gross, review of Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, p. 291.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1981, review of Just an Overnight Guest, p. 215; March 1, 1987, review of The Secret of Gumbo Grove, p. 380; February 1, 1990, review of Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, p. 186; July 15, 1992, review of Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, p. 926; February 15, 1995, review of A Blessing in Disguise, p. 233; March 15, 2007, review of Celeste's Harlem Renaissance.

New York Times Book Review, February 8, 1981, Merri Rosenberg, review of Just an Overnight Guest, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, August 10, 1992, review of Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, p. 71; December 5, 1994, review of A Blessing in Disguise, p. 77; October 6, 1997, review of Don't Split the Pole, p. 84; May 7, 2007, review of Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, p. 60.

School Library Journal, October, 1980, review of Just an Overnight Guest, p. 42; March, 1990, review of Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, pp. 220-221; March, 1992, review of Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, pp. 163-167; February, 1995, Carol Jones Collins, review of A Blessing in Disguise, p. 115; July, 2000, Janet Woodward, review of African American Musicians, p. 123; August, 2001, Robin L. Gibson, review of The Minstrel's Melody, p. 189; May, 2007, Joyce Adams Burner, review of Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, p. 144.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August-September, 1987, Linda Classen, review of The Secret of Gumbo Grove, p. 123; April, 1995, Becky Kornman, review of A Blessing in Disguise, p. 2.

ONLINE

Eleanora E. Tate Home Page,http://www.eleanoraetate.com (June 4, 2008).

African American Literature Book Club Web site, http://aalbc.com/ (June 4, 2008), "Eleanora E. Tate."

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Tate, Eleanora E.

Eleanora E. Tate

1948–

Children's writer, journalist

Crafting uplifting stories about young African American girls who learn valuable lessons about their heritage and how to cope with the problems that surround them, Eleanora E. Tate has provided a wealth of positive role models for her readers. Her highly acclaimed stories have been hailed by critics for shattering racial stereotypes, promoting the value of community, and offering realistic hope to African American youths, all in the context of colorfully told tales that vividly capture the flavor of small-town life. As Carole Brown Knuth wrote in the African-American Review in 1998, "Eleanora Tate's imperative as an author is to tell the story of the competing dynamics of African-American children's lives, in their own language and from their unique perspective. Her novels shed light on pockets of ambivalence and darkness and confusion in children's experience; through their rich cultural linkages her works create unique contexts of heritage."

Because of their important themes, upbeat tone, and vivid storytelling, many of Tate's books have become regular additions to school reading lists and are included on recommended reading compilations. Tate is known for her meticulous research and incorporating characters and settings from her own life experiences into her books and stories. Many of the ideas for her stories have come from young people she met during creative writing residencies at various schools. "I like to write about the kid who manages to overcome an obstacle, no matter how much adults and other kids try to jerk him/her around," said Tate in an interview with Contemporary Black Biography (CBB.) This type of character is made memorable in Tate's South Carolina Trilogy, a series of three novels that deal with self-worth and image-building in difficult situations.

Considered Writing Her "Best Friend"

Eleanora Elaine Tate was born in the small town of Canton, Missouri. While she knew her father, he was not present in her life; she was raised for the first 13 years of her life by her grandmother, Corinne Johnson. "My grandmother was everything to me and for me," Tate remarked to CBB. She also credited her grandmother for greatly influencing her decision to become a writer. Tate wrote her first story in the third grade and had decided that she wanted to become a writer by the time she was in sixth grade. "I felt I had messages to share with the world, even though some folks liked to tell me it was stupid and worthless for a Black girl 'like me' to want to write," Tate related to CBB.

In 1961 Tate moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where her desire to write became even more fervent. "My writing was my best friend as a teenager," she explained to CBB. At the age of 18, Tate began working full-time as a writer for the Iowa Bystander, a small African American weekly newspaper in Des Moines. While working at the Bystander, Tate gained valuable experience as a writer from an African American news editor named Frances Hawthorne. Tate interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as various other celebrities. She also reviewed movies, books, and record albums. It was also during this time that Tate began to develop a sense of social consciousness. As she related in an interview with CBB, "The 1960s were an exciting time for this young writer and I tried to be a caring, crusading young Black woman news editor, trying to help lead the charge to expose corruption and uphold the truth and the righteous, and fight those who would cast their racist wrongs against my people in this country and on the continent of Africa."

Two years after joining the staff of the Bystander, Tate received a full four-year scholarship to Drake University from the Des Moines Register and Tribune newspaper company. Following graduation, she became the first African American female journalist to work at the Register. At this time, Tate was trying to establish her own voice as a writer of poetry and fiction. In an attempt to further her development as a creative writer, she attended regular meetings with a group of African American artists in Des Moines. Tate has also cited the works of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and poet Gwendolyn Brooks as important literary influences.

In 1976 Tate relocated to Tennessee, where she worked as a staff writer for the Jackson Sun. She also served as a freelance writer for the Memphis Tri-State Defender. In 1980 Tate published her first novel, Just an Overnight Guest. Set in a fictional town similar to Tate's hometown of Canton, Missouri, the story is presented from the perspective of a nine-year-old African American girl named Margie Carson, who has to cope with the entry of a mixed-race child into her family. "Eleanora Tate does a fine job presenting the emotional complexities of Margie's initiation into adult life's moral ambiguities," wrote Merri Rosenberg in the New York Times Book Review. Just an Overnight Guest was later made into a film starring Richard Roundtree and Rosalind Cash. In 1985, the film was added to the "Selected Films for Young Adults" list by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association.

Wrote South Carolina Trilogy

Tate moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 1978 and soon began doing research for her highly acclaimed South Carolina Trilogy. The first novel of the trilogy, The Secret of Gumbo Grove, was published in 1987 and tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who stumbles upon an old cemetery in her town. This discovery eventually leads to many interesting historical revelations about African Americans in her community. School Library Journal hailed The Secret of Gumbo Grove as "A warm, humorous, and wonderful story…."

At a Glance …

Born Eleanora Elaine Tate on April 16, 1948, in Canton, MO; daughter of Clifford and Lillie Tate; married Zack E. Hamlett III (a photographer), 1972; children: Gretchen Tate. Education: Drake University, BA, journalism, 1973.

Career: News editor, Iowa Bystander, 1966–68; reporter, Des Moines Register and Tribune, 1968–76; contributed to black history and culture workshops, Des Moines, 1968–76; staff writer, Jackson Sun, TN, 1976–77; freelance writer, Memphis Tri-State Defender, 1977; writer and researcher, Kreative Koncepts, Inc., Myrtle Beach, SC, 1979–81; created and ran (with husband) Positive Images, Inc., a small public relations company, Myrtle Beach, 1983–93; founder Tate & Associates, 1993–.

Memberships: Iowa Arts Council Artist in Schools/Community, 1970–89; National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., 1987—(president, 1991–92); South Carolina Arts Commission Artists in Education, 1982–92; North Carolina Writers' Network; Twin Rivers Reading Council of IRA; NAACP, Georgetown, SC, chapter, 1984–89.

Awards: Community Lifestyle Award, Tennessee Press Association, 1977; Parents' Choice Gold Seal Award, 1987; Presidential Award, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Georgetown, SC, Chapter, 1988; Grand Strand Press Association Award, 1988; Grace Brooks Memorial Humanitarian Award, South Carolina Action Council for Cross-Cultural Mental Health and Human Services, 1991; Distinguished Woman of the Year, Arts, Carteret County, NC, Council for Women, 1993; Zora Neale Huston Award, National Association of Black Storytellers, 1999; Dr. Annette Lewis Phinazee Award, North Carolina Central University's School of Library and Information Services, for promoting quality African American children's literature, 2000; Iowa Author Award, 2004.

Addresses: Web—www.eleanoraetate.com.

In 1990, Tate published the second entry in the trilogy entitled Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! The novel tells the story of a young African American girl, Mary Elouise, who tries desperately to win the friendship of a snobbish, blond-haired classmate. Through the course of the novel, Mary Elouise begins to develop a greater sense of self-worth and a deeper appreciation for her own African American heritage. In her discussion of Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! in African-American Review, Knuth writes, "Tate looks behind the curtain of double consciousness to reveal the complex sensibilities of black children exploring their heritage, the history of their community, and the bewildering stereotypes of inferiority and shame which continue to proliferate so irresponsibly in our society."

The third installment of Tate's trilogy, A Blessing in Disguise, was published in 1995. In this novel, Tate explores contemporary themes such as drug abuse, crime, and violence and their effects on a small town. "The Secret of Gumbo Grove and Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! celebrate neighborhoods, communities, and self-worth, but in A Blessing in Disguise I explore what happens to families when neighborhood responsibility and positive role modeling for youth wither under the weight of the perniciousness of hard drugs, crime, and greed," remarked Tate in African-American Review. In its review of A Blessing in Disguise, Publishers Weekly noted, "Snappy dialogue convincingly suggests these characters' love of life, against which Tate artfully, and disturbingly, juxtaposes darker feelings."

One of Tate's motivations for writing the South Carolina Trilogy was to present African American issues from an African American perspective. Too often, these issues are presented from the viewpoint of white writers. In African-American Review, Tate said, "I wrote them to tell the stories of what it is that makes our communities what they are, from the past to the present, that will appeal to young readers, and that will give them hope."

Told Diverse Stories

In 1992, Tate published a sequel to Just an Overnight Guest. Entitled Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, this novel examines Margie's life three years later as she continues to learn about her heritage through stories told by her father about his own childhood. That same year, Tate collaborated with her nephew, illustrator Don Tate II, on a work entitled Retold African Myths, published in 1993.

One of Tate's most charming works is her 1997 novel, Don't Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom. In this novel, Tate crafts stories from a variety of proverbs, aphorisms, and slogans. In its review, Publisher's Weekly referred to Tate as a "crafty author whose stories leap off the page and lodge straight in the funny bone."

Tate wrote her first biographical stories in Black Stars: African American Musicians, published in 2000. In the book, Tate tells about the lives of some of the most well-known African American musicians of the last 200 years, as well as the stories of some lesser known musicians. She describes the obstacles, including poverty and racism, that these musicians overcame as they helped to shape American music. The collection includes the stories of Gospel singers, concert musicians, jazz pianists, and modern pop musicians.

The depth of broadened knowledge about American music Tate had gained while researching Black Stars showed in her next book, The Minstrel's Melody. Published in 2001, The Minstrel's Melody was a part of the American Girl historical mystery series. In it Tate vividly described life for African Americans in the early twentieth century through the adventures of 12-year-old Orphelia Bruce, who stows herself away in the trunks of a traveling minstrel show in hopes of performing at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Inspired by the lives of such musicians as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, as well as more contemporary singers, Tate successfully illustrates the difficulties African American women had in trying to make a living through their music. School Library Journal praised Tate for weaving "historical elements, such as the use of blackface in theater … almost seamlessly into the narrative."

While most of her stories told about the lives of women, Tate did not limit herself to females. To Be Free, for example, Tate wrote specifically for teenaged boys who did not like to read. In her very short book, Tate told a compelling story of a teenaged slave boy's journey on the Maritime Underground Railroad. No matter the gender of her characters, Tate tried to portray them realistically. She related to Drake University alumni paper, Update, that "The characters I develop are based on people I know or are composites of people I know. The stories are about how they reconcile issues to reach a better understanding, so that a young reader might be able to resonate with the characters and relate the story to his or her own situation."

Tate's books are included on many young adult reading lists, and for many, teaching guides are also available. Audiocassette versions of some of her books are available; thus, blind children can connect with her words. In addition to novels, contributions to other books, and many newspaper articles, Tate has written short stories, articles, and poetry for magazines such as American Girl, Scholastic Storyworks, Goldfinch, and the Journal of Black Poetry. During her lengthy career, she has also written advertising copy, news releases, and public service announcements for television, radio, and newspapers. Tate also presents lectures on children's literature in schools, libraries, and college campuses and conducts creative writing workshops for both children and adults.

For her writing and activism, Tate has received many awards and honors. One such award that Tate found especially touching came in 1990 when the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions honoring her for her literary contributions and community activist work. Still working and writing more than a decade later, Tate remained committed to the ideals that informed her work from the very beginning of her career. And her writings continued to touch the imaginations of new generations.

Selected writings

Books

Just an Overnight Guest, Dial Press, 1980.
The Secret of Gumbo Grove, Franklin Watts, 1987.
Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, Franklin Watts, 1990.
Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, Bantam Books, 1992.
Retold African Myths, Perfection Learning, 1993.
A Blessing in Disguise, Delacorte, 1995.
Don't Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, Delacorte, 1997.
Black Stars: African American Musicians, Wiley and Sons, 2000.
The Minstrel's Melody, Pleasant Company/American Girl, 2001.
To Be Free, Steck-Vaughn, 2004.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Authors, Vol. 43, Gale Research, 1994, pp. 435-37.

Periodicals

African-American Review, Spring 1998, pp. 77, 85.

Atlanta Constitution, January 26, 1989, p. C5.

Black Issues Book Review, January 2001, p. 82.

New York Times Book Review, February 8, 1981, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, December 5, 1994, p. 77; October 6, 1997, p. 84.

School Library Journal, August 2001, p. 189.

On-line

"Realizing a Dream," Update Alumni News of Drake University, http://www.drake.edu/newsevents/pubs/update/2003fall/coverstory.html (accessed on December 2, 2005).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from an interview with Eleanora Tate, publicity materials from Tate & Associates, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha Web site on the Internet.

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Tate, Eleanora E. 1948–

Eleanora E. Tate 1948

Author, journalist

Grandmother Was Key Influence

Embarked on Literary Career

Selected writings

Sources

Crafting uplifting stories about young African American girls who learn valuable lessons about their heritage and how to cope with the problems that surround them, Eleanora Tate has provided a wealth of positive role models for her readers. Her highly-acclaimed stories have been hailed by critics for shattering racial stereotypes, promoting the value of community, and offering realistic hope to African American youths, all in the context of colorfully told tales that vividly capture the flavor of small-town life. As Carole Brown Knuth wrote in the African-American Review in 1998, Eleanora Tates imperative as an author is to tell the story of the competing dynamics of African American childrens lives, in their own language and from their unique perspective. Her novels shed light on pockets of ambivalence and darkness and confusion in childrens experience; through their rich cultural linkages her works create unique contexts of heritage.

Because of their important themes, upbeat tone, and vivid storytelling, many of Tates books have become regular additions to school reading lists and are included on recommended reading compilations. Tate is known for her meticulous research and incorporating characters and settings from her own life experiences into her books and stories. Many of the ideas for her stories have come from young people she met during creative writing residencies at various schools. I like to write about the kid who manages to overcome an obstacle, no matter how much adults and other kids try to jerk him/her around, said Tate in an interview with CBB. This type of character is made memorable in Tates South Carolina Trilogy, a series of three novels that deal with self-worth and image-building in difficult situations.

Grandmother Was Key Influence

Eleanora Elaine Tate was born in the small town of Canton, Missouri. She never knew her father and was raised for the first thirteen years of her life by her grandmother, Corinne Johnson. My grandmother was everything to me and for me, Tate remarked to CBB. She also credited her grandmother for greatly influencing her decision to become a writer. Tate decided that she wanted to become a writer by the time she was in sixth grade. I felt I had messages to share with the

At a Glance

Born Eleanora Elaine Tate on April 16, 1948, in Canton, MO; daughter of Clifford and Lillie (Douglas) Tate; married Zack E. Hamlett III (aphotographer), 1972; children: Gretchen Tate. Education: Drake University, B.A., journalism, 1973.

Career: News editor, lowa Bystander, 1966-68; reporter, Des Moines Register and Des Moines Tribune, 1968-76; contributed to black history and culture workshops, Des Moines, 1968-76; staff writer, Jackson Sun, TN, 1976-77; freelance writer, Memphis Tri-State Defender, 1977; writer and researcher, Kreative Kon-cepts, Inc., Myrtle Beach, SC, 1979-81; created and ran (with husband) Positive Images, Inc., a small public relations co., Myrtle Beach, 1983-93; founded media consultant firm, Tate & Assoes., 1993; co-directed a national Black Storytelling Festival; featured speaker at Fifth Regional Caribbean Conference, Hamilton, Bermuda, 1996; has contributed stories and poetry to American Ctrl, Scholastic, Storyworks, Goldfinch, the journal of Black Poetry, and other publications.

Selected memberships: Iowa Arts Council Artist in Schools/Community, 1970-89; Natl Assn. of Black Storytellers, Inc., 1988-92 (natl. pres., 1991-92); SC Arts Commission Artists in Education, 1982-92; NC Writers Network; Twin Rivers Reading Council of IRA; NAACP, Georgetown SC chapter, 1984-89.

Selected awards and honors: Community Lifestyle Award, TN Press Assn., 1977; Parents Choice Cold Seal Award, 1987; Presidential Award, Natl. Assn. of Negro Business and Professional Womens Clubs, Georgetown SC Chapter, 1988; Grand Strand Press Assn. Award, 1988. Grace Brooks Memorial Humanitarian Award, SC Action Council for Cross-Cultural Mental Health and Human Services, 1991. Distinguished Woman of the Year, Arts, Carteret County, NC Council for Women, 1993; NC Kidfest Festival, author, 1998.

Addresses: OfficePO Box 3581, Morehead City, NC, 28557; AgentCharlotte Sheedy, Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency, 65 BleeckerSt, New York, NY 10012.

world, even though some folks liked to tell me it was stupid and worthless for a Black girl like me to want to write, Tate related to CBB.

In 1961 Tate moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where her desire to write became even more fervent. My writing was my best friend as a teenager, she remarked to CBB. At the age of 18, Tate began working full-time as a writer for the Iowa Bystander, a small African American weekly newspaper in Des Moines. While working at the Bystander, Tate gained valuable experience as a writer from an African American news editor named Frances Hawthorne. It was also during this time that Tate began to develop a sense of social consciousness. As she related in an interview with CBB, The 1960s were an exciting time for this young writer and I tried to be a caring, crusading young Black woman news editor, trying to help lead the charge to expose corruption and uphold the truth and the righteous, and fight those who would cast their racist wrongs against my people in this country and on the continent of Africa.

Two years after joining the staff of the Bystander, Tate received a full four-year scholarship to Drake University from the Des Moines Register and Tribune Newspaper company. Following graduation, she became the first African American female journalist to work at the Register. At this time, Tate was trying to establish her own voice as a writer of poetry and fiction. In an attempt to further her development as a creative writer, she attended regular meetings with a group of African American artists in Des Moines. Tate has also cited the works of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and poet Gwendolyn Brooks as important literary influences.

Embarked on Literary Career

While writing for the Register and the Tribune, Tate interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as various other celebrities. She also reviewed movies, books, and record albums. In 1976 Tate relocated to Tennessee, where she worked as a staff writer for the Jackson Sun. She also served as a freelance writer for the Memphis Tri-State Defender. In 1980 Tate published her first novel, Just an Overnight Guest. Set in a fictional town similar to Tates hometown of Canton, Missouri, the story is presented from the perspective of a nine-year-old African American girl named Margie Carson, who has to cope with the entry of a mixed-race child into her family. Eleanora Tate does a fine job presenting the emotional complexities of Margies initiation into adult lifes moral ambiguities, wrote Merri Rosenberg in the New York Times Book Review. Just an Overnight Guest was later made into a film starring Richard Roundtree and Rosalind Cash. In 1985, the film was added to the Selected Films for Young Adults list by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association.

Tate eventually moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and soon began doing research for her highly-acclaimed South Carolina Trilogy. The first novel of the trilogy, The Secret of Gumbo Grove, was published in 1987 and tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who stumbles upon an old cemetery in her town. This discovery eventually leads to many interesting historical revelations about African Americans in her community. The Secret of Gumbo Grove was hailed by School Library Journal as A warm, humorous, and wonderful story.

In 1990, Tate published the second entry in the trilogy entitled Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr /The novel tells the story of a young African American girl, Mary Elouise, who tries desperately to win the friendship of a snobbish, blond-haired classmate. Through the course of the novel, Mary Elouise begins to develop a greater sense of self-worth and a deeper appreciation for her own African American heritage. In her discussion of Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! in African- American Review Knuth wrote, Tate looks behind the curtain of double consciousness to reveal the complex sensibilities of black children exploring their heritage, the history of their community, and the bewildering stereotypes of inferiority and shame which continue to proliferate so irresponsibly in our society.

The third installment of Tates trilogy, A Blessing in Disguise, was published in 1994. In this novel, Tate explores contemporary themes such as drug abuse, crime, and violence and their effects on a small town. The Secret of Gumbo Grove and Thank You, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.! celebrate neighborhoods, communities, and self-worth, but in A Blessing in Disguise I explore what happens to families when neighborhood responsibility and positive role modeling for youth wither under the weight of the pemiciousness of hard drugs, crime, and greed, remarked Tate in African- American Review. In its review of A Blessing in Disguise, Publishers Weekly noted, snappy dialogue convincingly suggests these characters love of life, against which Tate artfully, and disturbingly, juxtaposes darker feelings.

One of Tates motivations for writing the South Carolina Trilogy was to present African American issues from an African American perspective. Too often, these issues are presented from the viewpoint of white writers. In African-American Review, Tate said, I wrote them to tell the stories of what it is that makes our communities what they are, from the past to the present, that will appeal to young readers, and that will give them hope.

In 1992, Tate published a sequel to Just an Overnight Guest Entitled Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, this novel examines Margies life three years later as she continues to learn about her heritage through stories told by her father about his own childhood. That same year, Tate collaborated with her nephew, illustrator Don Tate II, on a work entitled Retold African Myths

One of Tates most charming works is her 1997 novel, Dont Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom. In this novel, Tate crafts stories from a variety of proverbs, aphorisms, and slogans to create what Time magazine called a wonderful celebration of superior storytelling that can be enjoyed by the entire family. In its review, Publishers Weekly referred to Tate as a crafty author whose stories leap off the page and lodge straight in the funny bone.

Tate has also written audiocassette versions of some of her books so that blind children can connect with her words. In addition to novels, contributions to other books, and many newspaper articles, Tate has written short stories, articles, and poetry for magazines such as American Girl, Scholastic, Storyworks, Goldfinch, and the Journal of Black Poetry. During her lengthy career, she has also written advertising copy, news releases, and public service announcements for television, radio, and newspapers. Tate also presents lectures on childrens literature in schools, libraries, and college campuses and conducts creative writing workshops for both children and adults.

Selected writings

Just an Overnight Guest, Dial Press, 1980.

The Secret of Gumbo Grove, Franklin Watts, 1987.

Thank Your, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, Franklin Watts, 1990.

Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School, Bantam Books, 1992.

A Blessing in Disguise, Delacorte, 1995.

Dont Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, Delacorte, 1997.

Sources

Books

Trosky, Susan, editor, Contemporary Authors, Volume 43, Gale Research, 1994, pp. 435-37.

Periodicals

African-American Review, Spring 1998, pp. 77, 85.

Atlanta Constitution, January 26, 1989, p. C5.

New York Times Book Review, February 8, 1981, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, December 5, 1994, p. 77; October 6, 1997, p. 84.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from an interview with Eleanora Tate, publicity materials from Tate & Associates, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha Web site on the Internet.

Ed Decker

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"Tate, Eleanora E. 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Tate, Eleanora E. 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tate-eleanora-e-1948

"Tate, Eleanora E. 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tate-eleanora-e-1948