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Walter Dean Myers

Author of over seventy children’s and young adult books, Walter Dean Myers was born Walter Milton Myers on August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. At age two, Myers’s mother, Mary Green, died, and Florence Brown Dean, his father’s ex-wife and her husband, Herbert Dean, raised him. Growing up on 121st and Morningside in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Myers, a troubled youth, struggled with a speech impediment but loved to read. Myers attended P.S. 125 and JHS 143, but dropped out of Stuyvesant High School twice; once in 1952, and again in 1954. After serving in the United States Army from 1957 to 1960, Myers worked at the Harlem Post Office and the New York State Department of Labor; he also attended classes at City College of New York, Columbia University, and at SUNY Empire State College, where he graduated in 1984.

Encouraged by John Oliver Killens, Myers published his first poem in the Delta Review in 1962. Myers wrote for men’s adventure magazines, then won a Writers Digest contest sponsored by the Council for Interracial Books for Children with his story Where Does The Day Go?, in 1969. Writing first for small children, and then for young adults, Myers’s themes ranged from sports, to science fiction, to biography, to African and African American history, to fantasy, to adventure and even to mystery. Highlights of Myers’s prolific and award winning career include: The Young Landlords (1979), Hoops (1981), The Legend of Tarik (ALA Best Books for Children, 1981), Motown and Didi: A Love Story (Coretta Scott King Award, 1984), The Outside Shot (1984), Fallen Angels (Coretta Scott King Award, 1988), Now Is Your Time! The African American Struggle for Freedom (Coretta Scott King Award, ALA Best Books, Notable Books for Children, 1992), Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary (Best Books for Young Adults Award, ALA, 1993), Somewhere In Darkness (Newberry Honor Book, 1993), Monster (Michael L. Printz Award, 2000), Bad Boy: A Memoir (2001), Shooter (2004) and Autobiography of My Dead Brother (2005) about his brother’s death in Vietnam. Myers also wrote a biography of John Robinson entitled The Brown Condor; Robinson was an African American pilot and a hero of the Italo Ethiopian War.

Myers religiously wrote ten pages a day, after his morning walk. Myers lived with his wife, Constance, and son Christopher, the youngest of three children, in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Myers passed away on July 1, 2014.

Accession Number

A2005.190

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/5/2005

Last Name

Myers

Maker Category
Middle Name

Dean

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Stuyvesant High School

P.S. 125

Junior High School 143

City College of New York

State University of New York / Empire State College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Walter

Birth City, State, Country

Martinsburg

HM ID

MYE02

Sponsor

Ray Shepard

State

West Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

London, England

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/12/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Death Date

7/1/2014

Short Description

Fiction writer Walter Dean Myers (1937 - 2014 ) has written over seventy children’s and young adult books.

Employment

Bobbs-Merrill Company

Main Sponsor
Timing Pairs
0,0:4214,216:42107,741:146310,1871$0,0:3560,60:18434,276:71722,909:102850,1267
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107173">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Walter Dean Myers' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107174">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Walter Dean Myers lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107175">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his biological father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107176">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his maternal family history on the Bower plantation in Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107177">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Walter Dean Myers describes his mother's upbringing in Martinsburg, West Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107178">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Walter Dean Myers talks about how his biological parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107179">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his foster parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107180">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his half-sisters</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107181">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Walter Dean Myers describes personality traits he shares with his foster parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107182">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Walter Dean Myers describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood neighborhood in Harlem, New York City, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107183">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Walter Dean Myers reflects upon the values he acquired in school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/107184">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his speech impediment and proclivity for fighting as a boy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106875">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his behavioral problems in school and the alcoholism in his home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106876">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Walter Dean Myers talks about fighting in school, his love of basketball, dropping out of high school, and joining the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106877">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his love for reading</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106878">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Walter Dean Myers describes his experience at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106879">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his foster parents' marriage and his foster mother's alcoholism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106880">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Walter Dean Myers describes experiencing racial discrimination in the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106881">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Walter Dean Myers talks about writing after leaving the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106882">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Walter Dean Myers talks about working for the post office and his first published work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106883">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Walter Dean reflects on James Baldwin's influence and going into sports writing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106884">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Walter Dean Myers remembers winning a children's book contest in the Writer's Digest</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106885">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Walter Dean Myers describes how he enrolled at City College of New York without completing high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106886">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his first picture book, "Where Does a Day Go?"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106887">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Walter Dean Myers remembers learning from John Oliver Killens and how he became an editor at Bobbs-Merrill Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106888">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his experience at Bobbs-Merrill Company as an acquisitions editor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106889">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Walter Dean Myers describes his foster father's perspective on his writing career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106890">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his writing income and author Frank Yerby</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106891">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Walter Dean Myers talks about the black arts movement and humanizing his characters in his books, pt.1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106892">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Walter Dean Myers talks about the black arts movement and humanizing his characters in his books, pt.2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106893">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his research on aviator John Robinson who fought for Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106894">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Walter Dean Myers describes his search for stories and his discovery of HistoryMaker Roscoe Brown, the Tuskegee Airman</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106895">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Walter Dean Myers talks about the challenges of his book proposal for "The Legend of Tarik"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106896">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Walter Dean Myers describes the importance of telling the deeper story</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106897">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his book "The Young Landlords," which Topper Carew made into a movie</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106898">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Walter Dean Myers talks about how his half-brother's death in Vietnam inspired him to write "Fallen Angels"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106899">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his books about violence in the black community, "Monster" and "Autobiography of My Dead Brother"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106900">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Walter Dean Myers talks about the importance of self-worth to youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106901">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Walter Dean Myers talks about conducting research for his books and adhering to a disciplined writing schedule</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106902">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Walter Dean Myers talks about instances where his research challenged his preconceptions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106903">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Walter Dean Myers talks about the importance of self-discipline in achieving goals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106904">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Walter Dean Myers talks about "Bad Boy: A Memoir"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106905">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Walter Dean Myers talks about the contributions of hip hop writing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106906">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his writing goals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106907">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Walter Dean Myers describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106908">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Walter Dean Myers talks about what he would do differently</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106909">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Walter Dean Myers provides advice for developing writers and states his lack of interest in writing screenplays</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106910">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Walter Dean Myers reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106911">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Walter Dean Myers talks about John Henrik Clarke and HistoryMaker Yosef Ben-Jochannan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106912">Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Walter Dean Myers talks about his children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106913">Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Walter Dean Myers talks about African Americans in the children's book industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/106914">Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Walter Dean Myers talks about how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

12$3

DATitle
Walter Dean Myers talks about his speech impediment and proclivity for fighting as a boy
Walter Dean Myers talks about his first picture book, "Where Does a Day Go?"
Transcript
Now let me back up a little bit.$$Okay, sure.$$Let me go back to grade school--$$All right.$$--for a second. But, how would you describe yourself as a young kid growing up in Harlem [New York City, New York]? What were you--I've read that you--$$I considered myself busy. I was a busy kid. Other people thought I was--I fought a lot. I fought all the time. I have, you know I had a speech defect and kids could not understand me, teachers couldn't understand me when I spoke. And if you couldn't, you know that was very frustrating for me. And I would, since I was physical anyway, you know I would not mind hit--I fought teachers, I fought kids.$$Now what was the nature of your speech impediment?$$It was, I think it was something that came from my family. It was in my family background. I spoke extremely quickly and I have a tendency to live as much in my head as I do in the world. So I would understand what I was going to say but when it came out, it would--came out--I would pronounce the vowels only very often. So it was, the speech was quite bad. My brother had the same problem, so when he came to New York, he was like three years older than I am. They put him into a Spanish language class his speech was so bad. But I found--I was also busy. I was just the kind of kid--I think today I would have been on drugs because I always had something to say, you know. My hand was always up and if the teacher didn't call upon me, I'd blurt the answer out anyway you know. So I was the kind of kid that you know, I set fires in school. I, I did, you--I just, I was constantly busy in school. I was always wanting to go ahead in the books you know, and school came easily to me. I could learn anything. And it was a very, very, very easy for me. So in third grade I was you know--I remember being slapped by a teacher in the third grade and--$But as far as the writing is concerned, when I entered this contest, I wrote a picture book and won the contest and then they published it. You know Parents Magazine Press published the book.$$Now did they have to choose the artist for it or did you--?$$Yeah, they chose the artist, Leo Carty and that was my first book. And again, I wasn't trying to make a living at this business at the time.$$Well what was it about? What was the first book about?$$It was a picture book about a father who takes his children and some other kids out to a park and he says--one of the kids says--asks him where does the day go at night? And so he's--he asks them, well where do you think it goes? And each kid comes up with an answer. And it was a, you know I guess it was a cute book, but they published it and that was my first published book. And that was, what it meant to me was, okay now I'm writing, I'm still writing and I had two children at the time. And, so I could bring, I could show them the book that was really cool, you know, 'cause there were very--so, so few books for black children at that time. And then I just began writing. I wrote more picture books. I wrote more, you know just, again I just write all the time, you know just, this is what I do.