Eloise Greenfield: Groundbreaking Author of Children’s Literature
The Teaching for Change board and staff honor the work of one of our favorite children’s book authors, the nationally influential Eloise Greenfield. We have used Greenfield’s books extensively in workshops with teachers and students and appreciate all the times she has played an active role in Teaching for Change events. In 2016, Greenfield received the Teaching for Change Education for Liberation Award.
Here is a description of Greenfield’s life and impact, adapted from the African American Registry.
She grew up in Langston Terrace, a public housing development for African Americans in Washington, D.C. which she recalls fondly and describes in Childtimes: A Three Generation Memoir. The library was two minutes from her back door, so she spent a lot of time there. She and the other children in the housing project played games, danced in fire hydrant showers, and jumped rope.
Greenfield graduated from Cardozo Senior High School in 1946 and attended Miner Teachers College in Washington until 1949. Her first job was as a clerk typist with the U.S. Patent Office.
She began to write poetry and then saw that there were far too children’s few books that told the truth about African-Americans.
“Then and there, I decided to make that my mission,” said Greenfield. “I wanted my books to enable black children to realize how beautiful and smart they are. I wanted to write books that inspired and uplifted them, that made them laugh and be happy.”
She married in 1950 and has two children. In the late 1960s Greenfield began to work with the District of Columbia Black Writers’ Workshop. She was director of adult fiction (1971-73) and director of children’s literature 1973-74). She first wrote humorous rhymes then songs. She then tried three short stories that were rejected, but she kept practicing her writing until she was published.
After receiving 10 rejection letters, Greenfield’s first book, “Bubbles,” was published in 1972 by the Drum and Spear Press. (The press was founded by members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee-SNCC). She writes poetry, picture books, and biographies. She has won many awards for her books, which include: Rosa Parks, (1973), She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl, (1974), Honey, I Love, (1978), Grandpa’s Face, (1988), Night on Neighborhood Street, (1996), Water, Water, (1999), MJ and Me, (1999), Grandma’s Joy, (1999), The Friendly Four (2006), Paul Robeson (2009), When the Horses Ride By: Children in the Times of War (2010), The Great Migration: Journey to the North (2011), and others.
Greenfield has stated that her family and her efforts to fight racism are the two most important concerns in her life.
Greenfield continues to write, speak at conferences, and even recorded a rap video with her grandson of “Nathaniel’s Rap” from the book In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems.