Children's Book Authors & Illustrators Who Attended HBCUs

March 2 is the birthday of  Theodor Geisel known to most as Dr. Suess.  In celebration of his birth March has been named "National Reading Month."  Numerous HBCU alum have authored books, including children's books.  This #HBCUlegends feature recognizes a few children's book authors and illustrators.


Lucille Clifton

Howard University

Lucille Clifton has served as poet-in-residence at Coppin State University and Poet Laureate for the state of Maryland.  In addition to her books of poetry, she has written nearly 20 children's books. She is most known for the Everett Anderson series.  One book, Everett Anderson's Goodbye, is the winner of the 1984 Coretta Scott King Author Award. 

Eartha Dunston

Alabama State University

Dunston wrote in college but began writing for children when he daughter was four.  Her first book, The Hair Adventures of Princess Lindsey Sidney, was the 2016 winner of the Black Pearls Literary Excellence Book of the Year Award She has penned two more children's books- Grandma is Dancing in Heaven and Daddy Goes to the Desert, which she expects to publish soon.

Varnette Honeywood

Spelman College

Varnette Honeywood was an author and painter who specialized in collage.  Her paintings were featured on The Cosby Show, A Different World and 227.  She also collaborated with Bill Cosby on twelve books in the Little Bill Series,  Honeywood also started a greeting card company, Black Lifestyles, with her sister.  

Eloise Greenfield

University of the District of Columbia

Eloise Greenfield became a writer because she wanted more books that told the true story of African-Americans.  She has published more than 40 books- novels, poetry and non-fiction- that depict African-American communities, families and friendships.  Greenfield is the recipient of many awards including the Jane Addams Children's Book Award and 7 Coretta Scott King Awards. 

Julius Lester

Fisk University

Julius Lester is the author of more than 40 books for children and adults, including one co-authored with folk singer & activist Peete Seeger.  Lester is the recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award, a Newberry Honor and a Caldecott Honor.  He taught for more than 30 years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Interestingly, he also recorded two albums of folk music and original songs. 

John Lewis

American Baptist College, Fisk University

Civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis is the author of the graphic novel trilogy, March.  The three books are an illustrated memoir of Lewis' participation in the civil rights movement highlighting the student sit-ins in Nashville, the police confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and the Freedom Rides.  The third book in the series won the National Bool Award for Young People's Literature, the first graphic novel to do so. 

Patricia & Fred McKissack

Tennessee State University

The McKissack's met while in college and later collaborated on nearly 100 children's books about African-Americans. Together they were awarded 2 Coretta Scott King Awards and the Regina Medal.  Additionally, Patricia is the recipient of a Virginia Hamilton Literary Award and her book,  The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural was a Newberry Medal runner-up.  

Sheyann Webb Christburg

Tuskegee University

Sheyann was eight years old when Martin Luther Kjnd Jr came to Selma to help organize voting rights demonstrations. She would often sneak out of her house to attend mass meetings and lead the congregation by singing freedom songs.  Her activism, including participating in the attempted march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, now known as 'Bloody Sunday' led Dr. King to give her the nickname, the “Smallest Freedom Fighter!”   Webb is the co-author of the book, Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the Civil Rights Days  which was made into a movie starring Jurney Smollet

(Photo credits:  The New Yorker, Black Pearls Blog,, Leal Garcia Memorial Middle School, John Lewis for Congress, Reading Rockets, Alabama African-American History Calendar-2015)


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