Kadir Nelson, Passionate Illustrator

Listen and watch a video of Kadir Nelson and you will get to know one of the most wonderful children’s book illustrators of our time. The soft-spoken Nelson has accomplished, before the age of 30, many things. He has worked on a Stephen Spielberg film, Amistad, and won the Caldecott Honor Award for Illustration for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom, in 2007 and in 2008, won it again for Henry’s Freedom Box: a True Story from the Underground Railroad.

Born in Washington, D.C, Kadir began drawing at the age of 3 and at the age of 12 was apprenticed to his uncle, an artist and art instructor himself. Nelson won many contests and ultimately won a scholarship to and attended the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, New York. He currently lives and works in San Diego, California.

Nelson has a passion for African Americans and their plight and has illustrated beautifully many books and has created many works of art for celebrities that have sought him out.

For We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, Nelson took photographs of himself and used himself as a model for some of the players in the book. This is the first book he has written and illustrated and he worked on it for eight years, researching the Negro League. He interviewed lots of players that were still living to get their eyewitness accounts of their struggles to play the game and how they began their own league. This book won the Coretta Scott King Author Award in 2009.

Many of Kadir Nelson’s art works have been on display in museums across the country. See a booklist of his works here.


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Kadir Nelson. Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com.proxy.librarypoint.org/servlet/BioRC, retrieved from Central Rappahannock Library on June 1, 2010.