James S. Haskins (1941–2005) Biography
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born September 19, 1941, in Demopolis, AL; died of complications from emphysema, July 6, 2005, in New York, NY. Educator and author. Haskins was a prolific author of nonfiction works for children, many of which focused on drawing attention to black history and biography. After being expelled from Alabama State University because he participated in student protests supporting civil rights, he completed a B.A. in psychology at Georgetown University in 1960. Haskins went on to earn a B.S. in history from Alabama State University in 1962 and a master's degree in social psychology from the University of New Mexico in 1963. Moving to New York City, he worked as a stock trader and reporter for a time before becoming a teacher in 1966. While working at Public School 92, Haskins became discouraged by the deplorable conditions of the school buildings and the family problems his students were suffering through that distracted them from learning. He began to write his thoughts down in a diary that was later published as Diary of a Harlem School Teacher (1969; second edition, 1979), which also brought public attention to the problems that school bureaucracies bring to education. After the release of this book, Haskins was approached by publishers who asked him if he could write for children and young adults. Unable to pass up the opportunity, Haskins went on a mission to write books for young readers that would make them aware of the many accomplishments and contributions made by African Americans. Over the decades, he published dozens of these books, many of them earning awards, such as the Coretta Scott King Award for The Story of Stevie Wonder (1976) and the Carter G. Woodson Award for Black Music in America: A History through Its People (1987). In addition to his biographies, Haskins wrote books on historical and cultural subjects, such as his The Cotton Club (1977; revised edition, 1994), which inspired the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film. While pursuing his successful writing career, Haskins continued to teach. He was a visiting lecturer for two years at the New School for Social Research in the early 1970s, and from 1970 to 1977 was an associate professor at Staten Island Community College. In 1977, he joined the faculty at the University of Florida at Gainesville, where he was an English professor, but he often returned to New York City while also living in Florida. Haskins published about three dozen juvenile biographies in his lifetime, as well as numerous nonfiction titles for young readers and adults alike, including more recent titles such as African Beginnings (1995), One Love, One Heart: A History of Reggae (2001), and Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali (2001).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2005, Section 3, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2005, p. B14.
New York Times, July 11, 2005, p. A19.
Washington Post, July 18, 2005, p. B5.
- James S. Haskins Biography - Selected writings
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