Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Remembering Julius Lester, Author, Activist, Professor


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.