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Writers Against Racism: Eleanora E.Tate

Eleanora E.Tate, author of eleven contemporary fiction, biographies, and historical fiction, brings an authentic “neighborhoods and communities” perspective to her middle grade novels.

Briefly describe the impact racism had on you as a young person.


It’s not "had" — it’s HAS. Racism is not dead at all. I still confront it more often than I care to. The most glaring problem is that whites — especially young whites — have no idea when they’re being racist. They’re just sure that they’re NOT. I deeply appreciate the whites who do recognize when their prejudices lead them to commit acts of racism. The definition of racism is having the power to enforce one’s prejudices that ultimately are negative to the person or population against which the attitude is directed. Thus, the people who are so strongly against the Coretta Scott King award, not recognizing how negative the decades of discrimination against African American writers who vie for the Newbury award have been entrenched, are showing their racism. This includes those Negroes who think they’re being balanced by falling into the same crowd. The need for control — overtly or subtly — is the motivation for this belief.


Has your personal experience of racism impacted your professional work as a writer?


Well, my books speak for the truth that I’ve brought up against racism. The Secret of Gumbo Grove, set in the 1980s, reveals how a town’s history should include every population and not just one. Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!, set in the 1980s, reveals how racist attitudes found in school textbooks, books in general, and some teachers’ good intentions can harm African American children. In turn, this negative attitude can cause children to hate themselves because they are not part of the "dominant" population.


In what way can literature be used to combat the effects of racism and promote tolerance?

It’s more than tolerance. Tolerance means "putting up with." Let us be real. Do you merely want to be "tolerated?" How about accepted? or "respected"?

Eleanor’s newest book Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance, set in both Raleigh, NC and Harlem, NY in 1921, is the 2007 NC Book Award (AAUW) winner in Juvenile Literature, and a 2008 “IRA Teachers’ Choice Award” winner. To Be Free, The Secret of Gumbo Grove, Thank You, Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr.! and A Blessing in Disguise are also set in the Carolinas. She’s also the author of The Minstrel’s Melody, an American Girl History Mystery, Front Porch Stories at the One Room School, and the popular non-fiction titles African American Musicians and Retold African Myths. Her book Just an Overnight Guest was the basis of a children’s film of the same name and shown on PBS and Nickleodeon.


Eleanora E. Tate, Author of the Award-winning Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance


  1. Victoria Stapleton/LBYR says:

    CELESTE’S HARLEM RENAISSANCE is a truly wonderful middle grade read that kids across the country should read. I have 25 copies for alert Bowllan’s Blog readers. Send an email with the title in the subject line and listing your UPS address in the body of the email to and I will send you a copy.

  2. Great interview! Thank you for featuring Eleanora E. Tate. Her books are treasures.

  3. Clay Carmichael says:

    Much enjoyed hearing from talented fellow North Carolina authors Kelly Starling Lyons and Eleanora E. Tate.

  4. B Herrera says:

    Do you merely want to be “tolerated?” – Yes, I want to be tolerated. I can’t force people to like or respect me, but if they tolerate me I’ll have a better chance of getting to know them and convincing them that we are basically the same. You mention whites who are prejudices without even realizing it, but every race has prejudices. I have experienced prejudices from blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians. I have also experienced kindness and love from blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, Indians, Jews, etc. The prejudicial behavior came from people who did not show any tolerance at our first meeting. The love came from those who took the time to get to know me before judging me. So, to me, tolerance is the first step to getting to know a stranger, which leads to acceptance and respect.

  5. George Edward Stanley says:

    Thank you for your W.A.R. story, Eleanora! Once again, I should like to suggest that the public schools of this country rethink the way literature is taught – not only the contents of the reading lists but the chronological order. I do believe that if teachers started with current literature in the fifth or sixth grades, with lists representative of the makeup of this nation, in particular the great titles we’ve seen from W.A.R. writers (and not just the ethnic makeup of a particlar school district), then worked backwards, until they reached the literature at the beginning of the nation, America’s young people – ALL of America’s young people – could learn what has really made this country great – its many, many, many cultures!

  6. Thanks, Ms. Tate, for making that point about the CSK “controversy” whereby white author and illustrators claim they’re victims of discrimination…meanwhile they’ve already got 95% of the publishing pie! Thanks also to Victoria for that generous offer.

  7. Joyce Moyer Hostetter says:

    Eleanora, thanks for making me think. Again.

  8. Jo Ann Hernandez says:

    Ms. Tate I don’t know you and I definitely like your directness. I bet it’s gotten you in a heap of trouble. lol
    Thank you for your courage to speak out.
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Authors

  9. M. LaVora Perry says:

    I like your comment about the word “tolerance”, Eleanora. I hear–and I believe I understand–B Herrera’s comment. But I think if we’re talking about what we need to promote so that we can rise above the comfort zone that we know and truly be the beings we all came here to be, we need to actively promote acceptance of those who we view as different than us, not just tolerance of them.

  10. Wow, Ms. Tate, I can see your forthright opinion on the CSK Award not being too terribly popular with people who feel we’ve moved beyond that. I’ve been watching that particular debate with interest, and will look forward to seeing how it pans out. Meanwhile, I like what you have to say about tolerance. I agree: it’s a weak word, and we can do better than tolerating each other. But respect, as B. Herrera points out, must certainly be earned. Here’s to working to forward that respect. Thanks for your wise words.

  11. B Herrera says:

    Ms Tate, my son feels the same way as you about the word tolerance. He is always questioning my attempts to promote tolerance. My reply is that a step, however small, in the right direction is a step away from the wrong direction. I don’t think it’s the word, so much as our personal connotations of the word which create the differences of opinion. Let’s hope we reach a time when we are all respected and tolerance is simply a word reserved to medicine and boring people.