During the first half of the twentieth century there was a very small body of work by African-American authors and illustrators of African-American children’s books (see last week’s post, http://readmeastoryink.com/blog/?p=186 ). However by the early 60s, spurred on by the civil rights movement and Brown vs Board of Education, there was an explosion of African-American children’s literature and illustrations. In 1964 Virginia Hamilton became the first African-American to win the Newbery Award for her book ZEELY. In 1975 Mildred Taylor’s powerful ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY followed suit.
In 1970 the Coretta Scott King Award was founded. Like the Newbery Medal, it was under the auspices of the American Library Association, and has been given annually since its inception to an African-American author or illustrator whose books demonstrate an appreciation of African-American culture and universal human values.
With each decade ever greater numbers of authors and illustrators make their debut. Multi-honored Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations depict the beautiful uniqueness and individuality of African-Americans. John Steptoe’s illustrations for MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS are without equal. The must read list for African-American authors grows by the year: Walter Dean Myers, Joyce Hansen, Julius Lester, Andrea David Pinkney, Patricia McKissack, just to name a few. While the output of African-American children’s literature may not be the equal of white authors and illustrators in quantity, it is certainly every bit its equal in quality.