Let's begin at the point where African Americans first arrived on the covers of children's books. (I am disregarding Uncle Remus/Sambo-type representations.)
In 1962, Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day appeared on bookstore shelves, the first time an African-American child appeared as a main character on a picture book cover in the States:
|Viking, 1962. Caldecott award winner|
It seems weird now, but back then the idea of people of color on the cover was a novel notion. Even the makers of the beloved/loathed Dick and Jane series of early readers made a half-hearted effort to portray children of color in the mid-'60s. Just one example--first came this:
|A 1962 Dick and Jane: Guess Who Teacher's Edition|
|1965 Dick and Jane: Guess Who Teacher's Edition|
Who were the illustrators of color creating children's art back in those days and what images did they portray? Who broke the barrier?
|Ray Charles by Sharon Bell Mathis|
Crowell, 1973, reissued by Lee and Low
in 2006 (?)
Here's a cover illustrated by Ashley Bryan, also a pioneer in the field:
|Reminds me a little|
of a Grecian urn?
There were lots more, such as Carole Byard, John Steptoe, Pat Cummings and the Pinckneys (duh!). How about Faith Ringgold? Although her first children's book, Tar Beach, didn't come out until 1991, she had been exhibiting her paintings and textile art for many years before then.
|Tar Beach (Crown Publishers, 1991)|
Coretta Scott King award winner