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Ashley Bryan
Ashley Bryan by Sue Hill of Winters Work Gift Shop, Islesford, Maine, 2007
Ashley Bryan by Sue Hill of Winters Work Gift Shop, Islesford, Maine, 2007
Born July 13, 1923 (1923-07-13) (age 86)[1]
New York, NY[1]
Occupation writer; illustrator; college teacher
Nationality United States
Ethnicity African American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Cooper Union School and Columbia University[1]
Writing period Twentieth Century
Genres children's picture books
Subjects African American studies
Notable work(s) Dancing Granny
Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum
Beautiful Blackbird
Notable award(s) Coretta Scott King Award
Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal

Ashley F. Bryan (born July 13, 1923, New York, New York) is an American author and illustrator noted for his children's books. His subjects most often are from the African-American experience.



Bryan was born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx. His father worked as a printer of greeting cards. He loved birds. Bryan once counted a hundred caged birds in his childhood home.[1] Bryan grew up with six brothers and sisters and three cousins. Bryan recalled his childhood in New York the 1930s as an idyllic time, full of art and music.[1] He excelled in school, graduating from high school at the age sixteen.[2]

University studies and military service

Bryan attended the Cooper Union Art School, one of the few African-American students at that time to be awarded a scholarship. He had applied to other schools who had rejected him on the basis of race,[2] but Cooper Union administered its scholarships in a blind test: “You put your work in a tray, sculpture, drawing, painting, and it was judged. They never saw you. If you met the requirements, tuition was free, and it still is to this day,” explained Bryan.[2]

At the age of nineteen, World War II interrupted his studies. He was drafted and assigned to serve as a porter in Europe.[2] He was so ill-suited to this work that his fellow soldiers often encouraged him to step aside and draw.[2] He always kept a sketch pad in his gas mask.[2]

When he returned to New York, he exhibited the drawings he'd made as a soldier.[2] He then went on to Columbia University to study philosophy. He wanted to understand war.[2] After the war, Bryan received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Europe.


Bryan taught art at Queen's College, Lafayette College, and Dartmouth College. He retired as emeritus professor of art at Dartmouth in the 1980s.[1]


He was not published until he was forty years old.[2] In 1962, he was the first African American to publish a children's book as an author and illustrator.[2] “I never gave up. Many were more gifted than I but they gave up. They dropped out. What they faced out there in the world--they gave up.”[2]


In the 1980s, when Bryant retired from Dartmouth, he moved to Maine. In addition to writing and illustration he also enjoys making puppets, building stained glass windows from beach glass, creating papier mache, and making collages.[2]


His books have won several awards in children's literature, including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award from the Pennsylvania State University, and the Lupine Award from the Maine Library Association. Bryan himself also received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for achievement in children's literature and the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion from the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival.


  1. ^ a b c d e f *"Ashley F. Bryan". Answers Corporation. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-14.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Silver, Mary (April 4, 2009). "I Never Gave Up: Ashley Bryan’s Autobiography Published" (in English). The Epoch Times (Atlanta: The Epoch Times). Retrieved 2009-04-11.  


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