Ashley Bryan, renowned artist, writer, storyteller, and long-time resident of Maine has died at the age of 98. During his lifetime he received many awards, including the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes “outstanding African American authors, illustrators or author/illustrators and practitioners for lasting and significant contributions to youth or young adult literature.” He also received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the New York Public Library’s Literary Lions award, among many others.
Countless literary festivals are named for him. These include Maine’s own Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival, which is an annual festival hosted by Indigo Arts Alliance and named after Bryan’s 2003 picture book, Beautiful Blackbird. A goal of the festival is to “Celebrate Ashley Bryan’s legacy and the contribution of children’s book creators of the African Diaspora,” according to the website.
Daniel and Marcia Minter, founders of Indigo Arts Alliance, were close friends of Ashley Bryan. “We are blessed and grateful to have known him as a friend, mentor, colleague and humanitarian,” said Marcia Minter.
In addition to being celebrated internationally for his remarkable work, Ashley Bryan was widely loved for his generous, joyous spirit. In Maine, his death leaves the community of Little Cranberry Island bereaved. He lived for decades on the island, and was a friend to all, young and old.
Governor Mills issued a statement mourning his passing: “I am deeply saddened to learn of Ashley’s passing … His passing is a tremendous loss, but we are immeasurably better for his many, many gifts to our world.”