In 1962, Ashley Bryan became the first African American to publish a children’s book as both the author and illustrator. Since then, Bryan has established an important career creating children’s books that center stories of African heritage and culture. Now, some of his papers will be available to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.
Most of Bryan’s collection will remain in Maine, where he currently lives, at the Ashley Bryan Center. Upon the author’s passing, most of his papers will be gifted to the center. However, Nick Clark founding director of the Ashley Bryan Center, told WHYY that “when you start looking at what it consists of, it begged for a major research institution.”
Penn Library Senior Curator Lynne Farrington met Clark through the widow of another author William Steig, whose papers are held at UPenn, and arranged the acquisition. According to Farrington, UPenn received over fifty large containers of material, which still needs to be sorted and catalogued. The collection will not only be an important contribution to the study of children’s literature, but a wide range of fields.