Call Me Miss Hamilton: An Interview with Creative Team Carole Boston Weatherford and Jeffery Boston Weatherford

Civil Rights activist Miss Mary Hamilton was found to be in contempt of court after she demanded that an Alabama judge address her with the same honorifics used to address white people. Her case ultimately went to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled in her favor in 1964 and brought about a permanent change in courtrooms nationwide.

Call Me Miss Hamilton: One Woman’s Case for Equality and Respect combines powerful free verse from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford and striking scratchboard illustrations by Jeffery Boston Weatherford to honor this unsung heroine. Read on to hear what inspired the this family team to tell Miss Hamilton’s story and what surprised them on along the way!

What drew you to the subject of Mary Hamilton?

Carole Boston Weatherford (CBW): The contributions of women to the Civil Rights Movement are often overlooked. Though lesser-known, activist Mary Hamilton played a vital role in the Freedom Rides, lunch-counter sit-ins and other protests. I am proud to pay tribute to this unsung heroine.

Jeffery Boston Weatherford (JBW): My mom was the magnet that drew me to Mary Hamilton. She is always a beacon that sheds light on little-known figures and subjects. 

What did you choose to write about a legal case? What was the inspiration for the book?

CBW: Early in my career, I was director of communications for the National Bar Association, a professional organization of African American attorneys. I covered congressional proceedings, U.S. Supreme Court cases, and civil rights issues. I sat in the court as Justice Thurgood Marshall heard cases and interviewed civil rights attorneys who had represented Rosa Parks and others. This book builds on those experiences.

JBW: My inspiration for this book was my mom. She is always the source of inspiration for my illustrations.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while researching or writing the book?

CBW: I was surprised by how fearless Mary was. She stood up to the police and political leaders and did not back down even when facing imprisonment.  

JBW: The entire story of Mary Hamilton was a discovery to me!

What do you hope readers will learn or discover from reading your book?

CBW: I hope that young readers will understand that all people deserve respect.

JBW: I hope that readers find the courage to stand up for whatever they feel is right in the face of all adversity. 

Praise for Call Me Miss Hamilton

★”Weatherford introduces young readers to this lesser-known changemaker who challenged the court system for due respect. . . . Lending to this powerful story is mixed-media artwork that blends expressive black-and-white scratchboard illustrations with tinted photos from the time period.”—starred, Booklist

“Essential reading for teaching children about the importance of demanding equality and respect.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Carole Boston Weatherford provides unflinching narration . . . Collages made of photographs and fine-lined sketches on scratchboard by Jeffery Boston Weatherford, combined with boldly graphical book design, give the picture book a cinematic quality, placing due emphasis on Miss Hamilton’s landmark case.”—Publishers Weekly

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Connect with Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford is the award-winning author of numerous children’s books including Unspeakable which won a 2022 Caldecott Honor, Sibert Honor, and Coretta Scott King Book Award. When she’s not traveling or visiting museums, Carole is mining the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles. She lives in North Carolina.

Connect with Jeffery Boston Weatherford

Jeffery Boston Weatherford is a two-time NAACP Image Award winning artist, spoken word poet, and illustrator based in Maryland. Jeffery earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Howard University, and founded the global hip hop collective Triiibe Worldwide.

For more author and illustrator interviews on the Lerner blog click here!

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