Bryan was born in 1923 and was raised in Bronx, NY. At age 17, Bryan was drafted into the US segregated army to fight in World War II. In the army, Bryan experienced racism from white soldiers and witnessed D-Day. These experiences can be read about in his book Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace. Throughout his life, Bryan attended many academic institutions before becoming a professor emeritus of Dartmouth College. Throughout this time, Bryan was constantly drawing and writing. He has had over 50 books published.
As he began to work as an illustrator, Bryan noticed that there were not many books that focused on minorities. Bryan began to focus on books that would retell African stories. Most written accounts of these African stories thus far had an academic feel to them. So, Bryan took it upon himself to create books in which children could understand and be engaged in these stories. Through his work, it is extremely clear that Ashley Bryan loved African music, dance, and culture.
Ashley Bryan’s Legacy
Some of Bryan’s most noteworthy books are: Beautiful Blackbird, Freedom Over Me, and Beat The Story Drum, Pum-Pum. Bryan received many awards for his work including the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the New York Public Library’s Literary Lions award. The Ashley Bryan Center was founded in 2013 in order to preserve his work and carry on his legacy.
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