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Something Inside So Strong - Life in Pursuit of Choice, Courage, and Change

Something Inside So Strong

Life in Pursuit of Choice, Courage, and Change

By Mildred Pitts Walter
Series: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography
Hardcover : 9781496825834, 176 pages, 20 b&w illustrations, November 2019

The autobiography of a reluctant writer who overcame poverty and racism to become a civil rights activist and an award-winning, highly published author of books for young readers


In 1922, Mildred Pitts Walter was born in DeRidder, Louisiana, to a log cutter and a midwife/beautician. She became the first member of her family to go to college, graduating in 1940. Walter moved to California, where she worked as an elementary school teacher. After being encouraged by a publisher to write books for and about African American children, Walter went on to become a pioneer of African American children's literature. Most notably, she wrote Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World, which bent preconceptions with tales of black cowboys and men doing “women’s work. ” She was also a contributing book reviewer to the Los Angeles Times.

In Something Inside So Strong: Life in Pursuit of Choice, Courage, and Change, Walter recollects major touchstones in her life. The autobiography, divided into three parts, “Choice,” “Courage,” and “Change,” covers Walter’s life beginning with her childhood in the 1920s and moving to the present day.  

In “Choice,” Walter describes growing up in a deeply segregated Louisiana and includes memories of school, rural home life, World War II, and participating in neighborhood activities like hog killing and church revivals. “Courage” documents her adjustment to living away from family, her experiences teaching in Los Angeles, and her extensive work with her husband for the Los Angeles chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. The final section, “Change,” shows how Walter’s writing and activism merged, detailing her work as an education consultant and as an advocate for nonviolent resistance to racism. It also reveals how her world travels expanded her personal inquiry into Christianity and African spirituality. Something Inside So Strong is one woman’s journey to self-discovery.


This book is to memoir what Toni Morrison’s Beloved is to fiction: a journey to places, people, and ideas written with brilliance and with love. And, like Beloved, it will receive the applause, accolades, and awards it deserves!

- Gloria Wade Gayles, founder-director of the Spelman College Oral History Project and author of Pushed Back to Strength: A Black Woman's Journey Home

Something Inside So Strong reveals noteworthy experiences in the life of Mildred Pitts Walter, the Coretta Scott King Award–winning author. More than a coming-of-age story of growing into adulthood, it is an honest depiction of one woman’s life as she recognizes injustice, and it is her own story of finding her personal power. This book is vitally important.

- Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection

Mildred Pitts Walter has led a remarkable life. This unique book serves the vital purpose of capturing and preserving the work and achievements, as well as philosophies, thoughts, and experiences, of this teacher, activist, organizer, and writer.

- Paul V. Allen, author of Eleanor Cameron: Dimensions of Amazement