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Thomas Feelings (1933-2003) Biography

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for SATA sketch: Born May 19, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY; died of cancer August 25, 2003, in Mexico. Illustrator and author. Feelings was an award-winning illustrator and author of books for young people that focus on black issues. He studied at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School, which he attended from 1951 until 1953, when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. In the service, he worked as an illustrator in the Graphics Division in London until 1957; he then returned to study at the School of Visual Arts for three more years. Mostly working as a freelance illustrator, Feelings found it hard to find assignments because of his insistence on focusing on black history and themes. Nevertheless, his accomplishments in these early years include the creation of the comic strip "Tommy Traveler in the World of Negro History" and assignments for such publications as Look, Freedom-ways, and Liberator. In the mid-1960s, he moved to Africa to be an illustrator for the African Review in Ghana, and he also taught illustration for Guyana's Ministry of Education in the early 1970s. Feelings began illustrating children's books in the late-1960s, beginning with Letta Schatz's Bola and the Oba's Drummers (1967). During this time, he also illustrated books by other prominent writers, such as Julius Lester and Ruskin Bond, as well as publishing an autobiography aimed at young audiences titled Black Pilgrimage (1972), which was a Coretta Scott King Award runner-up. Feelings started to get more acclaim with two books he illustrated for his wife, Muriel: Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book (1971) and Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book (1974), both of which were runners-up for the Caldecott Honor Book award; he won this award later on for his work on Something on My Mind (1978) by Nikki Grimes. More recent collaborations include those with Joyce Carol Thomas in her Black Child (1981), and two books with Maya Angelou: Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987) and Soul Looks Back in Wonder (1993). In what many consider his masterpiece, in 1995 Feelings published The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo, a book that was twenty years in the making.


BOOKS

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, second edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1999.


PERIODICALS

New York Times, August 30, 2003, p. A15.

Washington Post, August 29, 2003, p. B6.

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