Eloise Greenfield

Cover of Greenfield's 2006 book, The Friendly Four

Eloise Greenfield (born May 17, 1929) is an American children's book and biography author and poet famous for her descriptive, rhythmic style and positive portrayal of the African-American experience.

After college, Greenfield began writing poetry and songs in the 1950s while working in a civil service job. Since 1971, she has published more than 40 children's books, including picture books, novels, poetry and biographies. She has focused her work on realistic but positive portrayals of African-American communities, families and friendships. She has also worked to encourage the writing and publishing of African-American literature and has taught creative writing.


Greenfield was born Eloise Little in Parmele, North Carolina, and grew up in Washington, D.C., during the Great Depression in the Langston Terrace housing project, which provided a warm childhood experience for her.[1] She was the second oldest of five children of Weston W. Little and his wife Lessie Blanche (née Jones) Little (1906–1986). A shy and studious child, she loved music and took piano lessons.[2][3] Greenfield experienced racism first-hand in the segregated southern U.S., especially when she visited her grandparents in North Carolina and Virginia.[4] She graduated from Cardozo Senior High School in 1946 and attended Miner Teachers College until 1949. In her third year, however, she found that she was too shy to be a teacher and dropped out.[5]

Greenfield began work in the civil service at the U.S. Patent Office. In 1950, she married World War II veteran Robert J. Greenfield, a long-time friend. She began writing poetry and songs in the 1950s while working at the Patent Office, finally succeeding in getting her first poem published in the Hartford Times in 1962 after many years of writing and submitting poetry and stories.[6] After joining the District of Columbia Black Writers Workshop in 1971, she began to write books for children. She has published more than 40 children's books, including picture books, novels, poetry and biographies. She says that she seeks to "choose and order words that children will celebrate".[5][7]

Dismayed by the depiction of blacks and black communities in popular media, Greenfield has focused her work on realistic but positive portrayals of African-American communities, families and friendships.[1] These relationships are emphasized in Sister (1974) a young girl copes with the death of a parent with the help of other family members, Me and Nessie (1975) about best friends, My Daddy and I (1991) and Big Friend, Little Friend (1991) about mentoring.[5] Her first book, Bubbles (1972), "sets the tone for much of Greenfield's later work: Realistic portrayals of loving African American parents working hard to provide for their families, and the children who face life's challenges with a positive outlook."[1] In She Come Bringing Me that Little Baby Girl (1974), a boy deals with feelings of envy and learns to share his parents’ love when his baby sister arrives. The poignant Alesia (1981) concerns the bravery of a girl handicapped by a childhood accident. Night on Neighborhood Street (1991) is a collection of poems depicting everyday life in an urban community. One of her best-known books, Honey I Love, first published in 1978, is a collection of poems for people of all ages concerning the daily lives and loving relationships of children and families. Her semi-autobiographical book Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir (1979) describes her happy childhood in a neighborhood with strong positive relationships.[5] In the introduction to that book, she explains her interest in biography:

People are a part of their time. They are affected, during the time that they live by the things that happen in their world. Big things and small things. A war, an invention such as radio or television, a birthday party, a kiss. All of these help to shape the present and the future. If we could know more about our ancestors, about the experiences they had when they were children, and after they had grown up, too, we would know much more about what has shaped us and our world.[8]

In 1971, Greenfield began work for the District of Columbia Black Writers' Workshop, as co-director of adult fiction and then, in 1973, as director of children's literature. That group's goal was to encourage the writing and publishing of African-American literature. She was writer-in-residence at the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities in 1985-86 and taught creative writing in schools under grants from the Commission. She has also lectured and given free workshops on writing of African-American children's literature. She is a member of the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent and a member of the African-American Writers Guild. Since 1991, most of Greenfield's books have been illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.

Awards and honors

Among Greenfield's accolades is the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1976. Her book, Childtimes, won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Her body of work was recognized by the National Black Child Developmental Institute in 1981. In 1983, Greenfield won the Washington, DC Mayor's Art Award in Literature and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. In 1990 she received a Recognition of Merit Award from the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books in Claremont, California.[2] She won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, given by the National Council of Teachers of English. She also received a lifetime achievement citation from the Ninth Annual Celebration of Black Writing, Philadelphia, PA, 1993; the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award; the Milner Award; the Hope S. Dean Award from the Foundation for Children's Literature; the American Library Association Notable Book citation; and the National Black Child Development Institute Award, among others.[9][10] In 2013, she received the Living Legacy Award from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.[6]

Personal life

Greenfield lives in Washington, D.C. She and her husband have a son, Steven, a daughter, Monica, and four grandchildren.[4]

Selected works

Biographies and non-fiction


  1. 1 2 3 Gershowitz, p. 227
  2. 1 2 "Eloise Greenfield Biography", Scholastic Inc., accessed May 15, 2009
  3. "Eloise Greenfield, a voice for children through literature", aaregistry.org, accessed April 11, 2014
  4. 1 2 Wood, p. 258
  5. 1 2 3 4 Greenfield, Eloise. Something About the Author, vol. 105, Alan Hedblad, ed. (1999)
  6. 1 2 Balkin Catherine. "Eloise Greenfield", BalkinBuddies.com, accessed April 11, 2014
  7. Ross, Jean. Interview of Greenfield in Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series, vol. 19, ed. Linda Metzger (1987), pp. 215–18
  8. Greenfield, Eloise. Childtimes: a three-generation memoir, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell (1979) p. viii
  9. Eloise Greenfield profile at HarperCollinsChildrens website
  10. "Eloise Greenfield (1929-)", J-rank.org, accessed on May 15, 2009


External links

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