Gracie Lewis Chandler was born on Sapelo—one of Georgia’s barrier islands. An ardent writer, she expanded her creative efforts in the 1980s when the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, while investigating land issues on Sapelo, researched the genealogy of forty-four families—descendants of slaves. The lineage of many of these families stemmed from a renowned slave, Bilali Muhammad. Chandler learned that Bilali, her seventh-generation grandfather, had written a “book”. Known as The Bilali Muhammad Document, the leather-bound work, written in Arabic, is housed in the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Books & Manuscript Library. The discovery of this remarkable ancestor inspired Chandler to begin writing a novel and, in spite of numerous setbacks, she never gave up the dream of becoming an author. After retiring from a lengthy teaching career in Miami, Florida, she completed her award-winning novel, Free to Be—the Silver Medal recipient of the coveted Florida Book Award.
Chandler is a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida and has a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with husband, Tommy J. Chandler.