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About Tom Feelings
Books by Tom Feelings

Tom Feelings

About Tom Feelings

An Interview with Tom Feelings

More About Tom Feelings

"When I am asked what kind of work I do, my answer is that I am a storyteller in picture form, who tries to reflect and interpret the lives and experiences of the people who gave me life. When I am asked who I am, I say I am an African who was born in America. Both answers connect me specifically with my past and present...therefore I bring to my art a quality which is rooted in the culture of Africa...and expanded by the experience of being black in America. I use the vehicle of 'fine art' and 'illustration' as a viable expression of form, yet striving always to do this from an African perspective, an African world view, and above all to tell the African story; this is my content. The struggle to create artwork, as well as to live creatively under any conditions and survive (like my ancestors), embodies my particular heritage in America."

Born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, Tom Feelings attended the George Westinghouse Vocational High School where he majored in Art. After graduation, he received a scholarship to the Cartoonists' and Illustrators' School which he attended for two years. Joining the Air Force in 1953, he was stationed in London, England, where he worked in the graphics division of the Third Air Force as a staff artist. From 1959 until 1964 he worked as a freelance artist while attending The School of Visual Arts in New York. During this freelance period, his primary subjects were drawn from the African American people of his community. He traveled to the South in 1961 to draw the people of black rural communities and some of these drawings were published in Look magazine as part of a feature entitled "The Negro in the U.S."

In 1964, he traveled to Ghana, where he spent two years working both as an illustrator for the African Review Magazine and for Ghana's government publishing house, teaching illustration. Returning to the United States in 1966, he continued to concentrate on illustrating books with African and African-American themes. Julius Lester's To Be A Slave, published by Dial and illustrated by Mr. Feelings, was chosen as a 1969 Newbery Honor Book -- the first time a black author received this award. From 1971 to 1974, Mr. Feelings lived in Guyana, South America, working as a teacher and consultant for the Ministry of Education, training young artists in textbook illustration.

Tom Feelings has received numerous awards for his art in books. In 1972, he was the first African American artist to win a Caldecott Honor Award for Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book and in 1975 he won a second Caldecott Honor Award for Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book, both written by Muriel Feelings. Jambo Means Hello also won the prestigious Bienale Illustrations Bratislava Award and received a nomination for the American Book Award in 1982. Something On My Mind won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1978, and in 1994 he won his second Coretta Scott King Award for Soul Looks Back In Wonder. For Daydreamers, with poems by Eloise Greenfield, he received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. Mr. Feelings also illustrated Now Sheba Sings The Song, written by Maya Angelou. The School of Visual Arts in New York recognized him with its Outstanding Achievement Award in 1974. He has received eight Certificates of Merit from the Society of Illustrators, and the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Visual Artists Fellowship Grant in 1982.

Collectors such as Maya Angelou, Roberta Flack and Cicely Tyson have paintings by Mr. Feelings in their private collections.

In the mid-ninties Mr. Feelings moved to Columbia, South Carolina where he taught art at the University of South Carolina. It was during that time he published perhaps his best known work, The Middle Passage, a powerful depiction of the slave trade, which won the 1996 Coretta Scott King Award. Mr. Feelings was working on finishing his last picture book, I Saw Your Face, a collaboration with the poet Kwame Dawes, not long before his death in 2003.


Books illustrated by Tom Feelings

Soul Looks Back In Wonder
After completing the stunning art for Soul Looks Back in Wonder, Tom Feelings approached stellar authors Maya Angelou, Margaret Walker, Walter Dean Myers, Lucille Clifton, Haki R. Madhubuti, and Eugene B. Redmond, among others. They wrote poems by Feelings's art to pass on the heritage of strength, beauty, and creativity to today's African Americans -- especially young people. (ISBN: 0-8037-1001-1, $15.99, 1993)

Daydreamers
by Eloise Greenfield
Poetry and portraits of young black children reveal all the beauty in children's wishes, yearnings and memories. (ISBN: 0-14-054624-3, $4.99, 1981)

Now Sheba Sings the Song
by Maya Angelou
"Striking in its very simplicity, this celebration of black women, is suggested for most high school and YA collections." Booklist (ISBN: 0-452-27143-6, $11.95, 1987)

Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book
by Muriel Feelings
"Primarily a Swahili counting book, Moja Means One is also meant to be a gift of heritage, a glimpse at what is unique about East Africa." School Library Journal (ISBN:0-14-054662-6, $4.99, 1971)

Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book
by Muriel Feelings
"The beautiful vision of African life in the text merely hints of the community breathtakingly captured in the illustrations...The space has been filled with monumental figures that glorify the power and beauty of man." The Horn Book (ISBN: 0-8037-4346-7, $15.99, 1971)

Something On My Mind
by Nikki Grimes
"Prose poems express the fear, hope, and yearning of black children in noted illustrator Feelings's portraits with a one of sensitive realism that is maintained throughout." School Library Journal (ISBN: 0-14-054705-3, $4.99, 1978)

To Be a Slave
by Julius Lester
"Julius Lester has assembled from the words of slaves and his own pointed but unobtrusive commentary one of the most powerful documents to appear in children's literature." School Library Journal (ISBN: 0-8037-8955-6, $15.99, 1968)

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved. Find Books by Tom Feelings

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