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Harriette Gillem Robinet Monograph Collection-Oak Park Public Library

Identifier: 2017-012


Harriette Gillem Robinet is best known for creating historical fiction in which she portrays African-American children and adults living in pivotal times in U.S. history. Her works have won numerous awards, including the Carl Sandburg Award, the Scott O'Dell Award for children's historical fiction, and the Jane Addams Award. The collection contains first editions of her work.


  • Creation: undated

Biographical / Historical

Harriette Gillem Robinet was born in Washington, D.C. in 1931, the daughter of a history teacher. As a child, she would spend summers in Arlington, Virginia, where she learned that her grandparents were slaves who had worked under Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Robinet's father suggested she actively follow the news, keep a diary, and write a story every day. Her father’s guidance helped to lay the ground work for Robinet’s literary career.

Robinet obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree from College of New Rochelle and a graduate degree from Catholic University. She began her career as bacteriologist, teaching biology at the Xavier University in Louisiana and working as a researcher for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During this time, she meet her future husband, McLouis. In 1960 the couple moved to Illinois, so McLouis could teach physics at the University of Illinois, Medical Center. With the responsibilities of a growing family, Robinet left bacteriology to become a free-lance writer.

In the mid 1960s the Robinets began searching for a home to better accomodate their growing family and provide an easy commute for McLouis, who worked nearby. The Robinet family was denied housing seven times before they found a home in Oak Park in 1965. As as result of their experiences, the Robiniets played an active role in what would be come to known as the Open Housing movement. Robinet also wrote about their experiences in a Janaury 1968 Redbook article.

In 1977 Children’s Press in Oak Park published Robinet's first children’s book, Jay and the Marigold. The book was notable for depicting an African American child with a disability. It was originally written in 1969, but was rejected repeatedly by publishers due to its subject matter. Robinet's second work, Ride the Red Cycle was published in 1980. Her books continued to highlight the African-American experience, especially in historical settings. Robinet has received many accolades for her writing, including the Carl Sandburg Award, the Scott O'Dell Award for children's historical fiction and Jane Addams Award.

Harriette Gillem Robinet continues to live and write in Oak Park.


4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Oak Leaves 2/14/68 p.60; “Aiding Balance” Oak Leaves 9/1/76 p. 7 Catrambone, Kathy; “Harriette Robinet: She’s a Catalyst for Change” Oak Leaves 2/16/77 p. W-3 Cressy, Christy; “Red Cycle Challenges Us All” Oak Leaves 6/18/80 p. 105 Vrba, Harriet; Oak Leaves 2/27/85 p.7; “Johnny learns to write” Wednesday Journal 7/20/83 p. 11 Walsh, Francis J.; “Biography of Harriette Gillem Robinet,”

See also: Oak Leaves 14 February 1968 p. 60; Oak Leaves 1 September 1976 p. 7; Oak Leaves 16 February 1974; Oak Leaves 18 June 1980 p. 105; Wednesday Journal 20 July 1983 p. 11; Oak Leaves 27 February 1985 p. 6
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Repository Details

Part of the Oak Park Public Library Special Collections Repository

834 Lake Street
Oak Park IL 60301 USA