Dorothy Sterling, writer of Black women

Sun, 1913-11-23

Dorothy Sterling was born on this date in 1913. She was a Jewish American writer, journalist, and historian.

She was born in New York City and grew up in Manhattan. She started Wellesley College at the age of 16 and received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1934. After graduating, she worked as an editor and author of the weekly column, "Paris Notes," for Art News and for the Federal Writers Project as a writer in New York.

In 1937, she married Phillip Sterling, who was also a writer. From 1941 to 1949, she was a researcher for Life magazine. Her first book, "Sophie and Her Puppies," a photo essay, was published in 1951, was followed by four others similar to it, but Sterling still did not consider herself a writer.

It was at this time that she decided to write a book about women that would "empower girls." Her research on Harriet Tubman at the Schomburg Collection in New York City presented the opportunity of writing biographies about famous African-Americans. "Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman," was published in 1954. During this time Sterling served as a consulting editor on Black history for Firebird Books, Scholastic, Beacon Press, and Doubleday. She is an active member of the NAACP and many of her books focus on Black history, the civil rights movement, and African-American biographies.

Sterling was the author of more than 30 books, mainly non-fiction historical works for children on the origins of the women's and anti-slavery movements, civil rights, segregation, and nature, as well as mysteries. She has won several awards for her writings, including the Carter G. Woodson Book Award from the National Council for the Social Studies for "The Trouble They Seen: Black People Tell the Story of Reconstruction," in 1976.

She died on December 1, 2008.

The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
Box 5148
Hattiesburg, MS 39406
(601) 266-4349

To be a Writer

Person / name: 

Sterling, Dorothy