Skip to main content

Ashley Bryan Papers

Identifier: DG1118

Scope and Contents

The Ashley Bryan Papers consist of illustration proofs, an autographed poster, and illustrated note cards created, accumulated, or signed by Ashley Bryan between 1980 and 1994. Bryan's papers were created from his composition of three published books. The material is organized into a single series for books.

The Books Series contains an autographed promotional poster for Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum, which probably was acquired by de Grummond Collection staff members at a literary conference. The series also includes note cards featuring illustrations from Christmas Gif' and How God Fix Jonah, as well as illustration proofs for the former title. The Christmas Gif' note cards were donated by the son of Charlemae Hill Rollins after the publication of the 1993 reprint and probably date from the 1990s. It is unknown whether the matted illustration proofs were used for the 1963 or 1993 version, but since Bryan donated the proofs in 1994, it is assumed they were used for the 1993 edition of Christmas Gif'. The illustrated note card from How God Fix Jonah features an illustration originally drawn for the 1946 edition of the book, but is identified using the page number from the 2000 reprint. The papers in the Books Series are arranged alphabetically by title.


  • circa 1980 - 2000

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; Available for research

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical / Historical

Ashley Bryan was born in a rough section of New York City in 1923, one of six children born to West Indian immigrants from Antigua. His early love of drawing, painting, and creating handmade books was encouraged by family, friends, and school teachers. After serving in the army during World War II, Bryan earned a degree from Cooper Union Art School, received a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University, and won a Fulbright Scholarship for art studies in Europe. He later taught drawing and painting at Queens College in New York City, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and finally at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire before deciding to focus solely on his own art. In the 1960s, Jean Karl, an editor from Atheneum, heard about Bryan's hand-stitched books whose illustrations were influenced by African and West Indian traditions. She visited his studio and immediately made arrangements to offer him a contract. Since then Bryan has authored or illustrated more than thirty books. Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum (1980) was a Parents' Choice Award and received the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration. He received Coretta Scott King honor book citations for his illustrations in 1983 for I'm going to Sing: Black American Spirituals; for his writing in 1986 for Lion and the Ostrich Chicks and Other African American Folktales; for his illustrations in 1988 for What a Morning! The Christmas Stories in Black Spirituals; and for his illustrations in 1992 for All Night, All Day: A Child's First Book of African American Spirituals. In addition to his work with children's literature, Bryan also conducts black poetry readings and storytelling sessions for young audiences across the United States.

In 1990, Bryan was chosen to deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, one of the highest honors in children's literature. In 1994 he won the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, awarded annually for outstanding contributions in the field of children's literature. The artist currently resides on a small island off the coast of Maine where he paints and goes for daily walks in the woods and along the shore.


Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1993), 5:364-367.

Biography of Ashley Bryan for the Virginia Hamilton Conference at Kent State University:, accessed 11 March 2003.


.60 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The Ashley Bryan Papers contain a poster, proofs, and note cards derived from three works published between 1980 and 2000. Bryan, whose drawings are inspired by African and West Indian spirituals and folktales, has authored or illustrated more than thirty books. He won a Coretta Scott King Book Award in 1980 for Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The proofs from Christmas Gif' were donated to the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection of the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries by Ashley Bryan in 1993. The Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum poster was obtained by the de Grummond Collection staff at an unknown place and time.

Ashley Bryan Papers
In Progress
Cheri Alder
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
This finding aid is the product of a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001