September 26, 2023


Arts Eternal

Ashley Bryan, acclaimed children’s author, dead at 98

ISLESFORD, Maine – Ashley Bryan, a prolific and prize-successful children’s writer and illustrator who explained to stories of Black lifestyle, tradition and folklore in this kind of acclaimed functions as “Freedom In excess of Me,” “Beautiful Blackbird” and “Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum,” has died at age 98.

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing declared that the longtime Maine resident died “peacefully” Friday in Texas, the place he experienced been being with kin.

“An early, tranquil, and powerful drive in bringing small children of color and troubles of racial variety into the canon of children’s literature, he was committed to opening the eyes of young children of all backgrounds to a large range of themes by poetry, folktales, spirituals, and biblical narratives,” the publisher’s assertion reads.

Bryan was a Harlem native who showed an early expertise for drawing and for a time was the only Black scholar at the artwork faculty at Cooper Union in Manhattan. He served in a segregated armed service device for two yrs throughout Entire world Globe II, an knowledge he recounted in his memoir “Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from Entire world War II to Peace,” and resumed his art studies right after the war.


Bryan labored on far more than 70 publications and been given many honors, which include Coretta Scott King Awards — provided for the year’s most effective work by a Black creator or illustrator — for the folktales “Beautiful Blackbird” and “Beat the Tale-Drum, Pum-Pum.” He also obtained two lifetime achievement prizes: the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (now recognized as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award) and the Virginia Hamilton award.

Survivors consist of his brother Ernest, and “many cherished” nieces and nephews, according to Simon & Schuster.

“I am deeply saddened to understand of Ashley’s passing,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills explained in a assertion Saturday. “He was a great, pleased person with a deep, abundant background, a terrific imagination, and a attractive, childlike soul. I am so thankful I was capable to commit time with him past calendar year. In excess of our lunch, he spontaneously recited Langston Hughes, Shakespeare’s appreciate sonnets and other superb verses.”


Mills experienced proclaimed July 13, 2020, as Ashley Frederick Bryan Working day in Maine to mark Bryan’s then-97th birthday. A memorial provider will be held in Isleford this July 13.

Bryan also taught art, which includes at Dartmouth School from 1974 to 1988, ahead of moving to Maine.

In the course of Planet War II, he was drafted into the U.S. Military and fought in Europe, hiding drawing resources in his fuel mask so he could sketch his fellow soldiers, the Bangor Each day Information documented. He was component of the D-Working day invasion of Normandy, France, at Omaha Beach in June 1944.

Just after the war, Bryan continued with his scientific tests in Europe. He credited sketches he made of musicians at a festival in France with “opening his hand” and offering him a lasting style and tactic, the Day-to-day News reported.

“I realized if I could come across the rhythm of whichever I was dealing with, that I could do all of my operate and know who I am, preserve hoping to get to that core of who I am,” Bryan stated in a 2014 interview with the newspaper. “And it did not make a difference if I was undertaking a painting, if I was performing a puppet, a sea glass panel, performing a ebook — all of it is trying to faucet that internal secret of who I am.”

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