For Kids

The Vibrant, Varied Talents and Stories of Black Artists

02/22/2019 | #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Art, Biography, Black History, U.S. History

Ashley Bryan was born in 1923 and grew up in New York City. When he was a boy his parents noticed right away that he loved to draw and paint and make things. They did everything they could to make sure he had art supplies to use to create things. After he graduated from high school he wanted to go to college and study art. This would have been in the time right before World War II, well before the civil rights movement. Ashley interviewed for a spot at an art institute. He says in his autobiography Ashley Bryan Words to My Life's Song,"

"The interviewer stated that mine was the best portfolio that he had seen. However, he also informed me that it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person."

Instead of letting those words discourage him, Ashley listened to good advice from his parents to never let anyone or anything ever stop him from doing what he loves. Ashley persevered. He attended the Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering and Columbia University. He studied art in France and Germany too.

Ashley has taught art, written and illustrated books and created countless beautiful things you can see in this book: stained glass windows, paintings, sculptures, puppets, and more. There is one picture that shows Ashley at home in a room full of his creations. It's like looking at an I Spy picture of wonderful things. I would love to wonder through his studio, pull up a stool and begin creating something. After reading this book, I know that if I did walk into his studio, that is exactly what he would want me to do!



Biography in Context is a database you can use in any IndyPL Library Branch or at home. Biography in Context will show you biographies, magazines, videos and more about African American Artists.

18 Children's Books that Share the Vibrant, Varied Talents & Stories of Black Artists

Creatively and Beautifully illustrated or including reproductions of the original pieces themselves, these books range over the creative arts from quilting to painting to collage & pottery. The books cover some well known artists like Jacob Lawrence, Benny Andrews, and Romare Bearden, but also reveal the lesser known, like folk artists Clementine Hunter and Bill Traylor, regional phenomenon Tyree Guyton and a slave potter, simply known as "Dave the Potter." #indyplkids

Draw What You See

The Life and Art of Benny Andrews

Benson, Kathleen

Benny Andrews grew up in George. His parents were sharecroppers. When he was young he drew the world around him, people working in the fields or children playing. When he was older and moved to New York he still painted these things from his memories but he also painted what he saw in the city, especially experiences of injustice during the civil rights movement.

A Splash of Red

The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Bryant, Jennifer

A beautiful and interesting books about the work and life of Horace Pippin. Like many of the artists featured here Horace drew from the time he was a small boy. He was born with talent and drew throughout his childhood and early adulthood. His story takes a unique turn when he is injured during World War I and eventually teaches himself to draw with his left hand instead of his right. Amazing.

Gordon Parks

How the Photographer Captured Black and White America

Weatherford, Carole Boston

The story of Gordon Parks, a self taught photographer who was also a musician, a writer and a movie director. That is a lot of talent in one person! Gordon used his camera to expose the struggles of black life in American in the mid 20th Century.

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.


WeNeedDiverseBooks Logo"To get young people engaged, one of the things they need is to see themselves in books. It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books, because that encourages us to read in a different way and encourages us to write more." ~ Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott Founder of the African American Read-in #weneeddiversebooks

~ IndyPL_CarrieW