The SCBWI is saddened to report the passing of Julius Lester, author, poet, photographer and civil rights activist. Mr. Lester died yesterday at his New England home. He was 78.
A professor for more than 30 years at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, his children’s books included the Newbery Honor Book To Be a Slave, and the Caldecott Honor Book John Henry. He was also a National Book Award finalist for The Long Journey Home: Stories from Black History and was the Coretta Scott King Award winner for Day of Tears.
A lifelong activist for civil rights, he traveled to Mississippi in the “Freedom Summer” of 1964 to register African-American voters. His role in energizing the people gathered at rallies and the danger he and other organizers faced were recounted in a 2014 PBS documentary, The Folk Singer.
A beloved member of the SCBWI, he was a speaker at a number of conferences, an unforgettable experience for everyone lucky enough to hear him.
For all those he touched through his words and activism he will be sorely missed.