A multitalented author known especially for her children’s books, Margaree King Mitchell was born on 23 July 1953 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, to Joe King Jr. and Susie Mae Bowen King. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University in 1975 and married Kevin Lee Mitchell seven years later. They went on to have one son, Nelson.
After volunteering in her son’s first-grade class and noticing that many children lacked parental support and self-esteem, she decided to create characters who could serve as role models for young children. To that end, she has written four works of historical fiction: Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (1993), in which a barber in the rural South in the 1920s pursues his dream until he finally realizes it at age seventy-nine; Granddaddy’s Gift (1997), in which a Mississippi man braves white intimidation to register to vote during the civil rights era; Susie Mae (2000), about an African American third-grader who integrates a previously all-white school; and When Grandmama Sings (2012), which tells the story of a girl traveling with her grandmother across the Jim Crow South in the 1940s.
More recently, Mitchell has turned to young adult literature with The People in the Park (2013), the story of a privileged African American teenager who must learn to cope after her father is charged with investment fraud, and to religious fiction for adults with Woman in the Pulpit (2015), which explores the challenges faced by women in the ministry.
Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, won the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, and has been adapted as a dramatic musical. Mitchell has also composed several dramatic works, including Once upon a Dream (Arkansas Screen Writers Association, 1992), Corporate Lies (finalist, East Foundation Fellowship Program, Writers Guild of America), The Hi-Rise (finalist, Theatre Memphis New Play Competition, 1991), and School’s Out, a television script (1994).
- Robert Cummings, The Mississippi Writers Page (2007)
- Gale Reference Team, Contemporary Authors Online (2006)
- Ben Peterson, Children’s Advocate (July–August 2001)
- Margaree King Mitchell, telephone interview with Preselfannie E. Whitfield-McDaniels (15 August 2007)