Virginia Hamilton was born March 12, 1934. She received a scholarship to Antioch College, and then transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus, where she majored in literature and creative writing. She also studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research in New York.
Her first children's book, Zeely, was published in 1967 and won the Nancy Bloch Award. During her lifetime, she wrote over 40 books including The People Could Fly, The Planet of Junior Brown, Bluish, Cousins, the Dies Drear Chronicles, Time Pieces, Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl, and Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny. She was the first African American woman to win the Newbery Award, for M. C. Higgins, the Great. She has won numerous awards including three Newbery Honors, three Coretta Scott King Awards, an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She was also the first children's author to receive a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1995.
She died from breast cancer on February 19, 2002 at the age of 67.