Eleanora Tate Shares Her Stories

Eleanora Tate moved from Missouri to Des Moines in the summer of her thirteenth year. It was the early 1960s and she was already a writer. She had written her first short story in the third grade. She wrote her first book as a sixth-grader. She's been writing ever since.

"I loved reading," Tate said in an interview in 1995. "I got so much enjoyment from what others had written, I wanted to try putting my own words on paper. I realized I had a message to give the world."

Newspaper Writer

After graduating from Roosevelt High School, Tate became a reporter for The Iowa Bystander newspaper. In 1968 she earned a full four-year scholarship to Drake University, and the following spring she starting working at the Des Moines Register and Tribune writing about weddings and engagements. She was the paper's first African-American reporter.

Tate switched to the news side of the paper a year later, writing death notices, weather reports and taking stories over the phone from other reporters. As she gained experience, Tate began writing her own articles.

Children's Books

She "stumbled onto children's literature" when she entered a writing contest. Her story didn't win first prize, but the publisher encouraged her to submit more. In 1976 she left the Register and began publishing children's books. She has won many awards for her writing over the years. Some of her books include: The Secret of Gumbo Grove, Retold African Myths and The Minstrel's Melody.

In the 1995 interview Tate had a message for young people that stands the test of time. She said she wanted kids to know that "reading is positive knowledge and knowledge is positive power. With positive power, you can do anything you want in this world. Blaming, complaining, and whining won't make things better. You have to change from the inside out."


  • Millie Frese, “Eleanora Tate,” The Goldfinch 16, no. 4 (Summer 1995): 9.


'Reading is positive knowledge and knowledge is positive power.' Find out what this means for Eleanora Tate, an Iowa writer.

Media Artifacts

Investigation Tip:
What chance event described in this article affected Eleanora Tate? What happened? Why was it important? What was the result?