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BCRT Ashley Bryan Award

The Ashley Bryan Award, established in 2023 by the TLA Black Caucus Round Table (BCRT), honors a Black author for their body of work on an odd year and a new talent Black author debut work on an even year; for contribution to highlighting and promoting humanity, diversity, culture, and community in children’s literature.

The Ashley Bryan awards recipient will be selected based on their outstanding contribution to literature that promotes people of color and fosters community, while creating opportunities for our experiences in humanity. Winners will receive $1,000 and a plaque.

The 2025 Ashley Bryan Award honoring an author’s body of work will be presented at the TLA 2025 Annual Conference in Dallas.

NOMINATE AN AUTHOR

You must be a current member of the Black Caucus Round Table to submit a nomination. Nominations close June 29, 2024.

About Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. Born in Harlem, New York in 1923, Bryan began painting as a small boy. His love for the arts landed him a full scholarship where he began studying sculpture, calligraphy, design, book illustration and painting in 1940. He took a hiatus to serve in WWII in the Segregated US Army in 1943. Once his return, he earned his BS, Cum Laude, at Columbia University in 1950.

photo of author Ashley Bryan

Photo credit Emma Lee/WHYY

Bryan studied and worked in France from 1950 – 1953 where he formed his signature style in all his artistic expression; and Germany in 1957 where he attended the University of Freiburg on a Fulbright grant. He returned back to New York to teach art and later from 1974 – 1988 joined the faculty of Dartmouth College’s art department in Maine, where he taught courses in drawing, painting and design until his retirement  in 1988.

His stories and paintings centered on African and African American experiences, to which he devoted his career spanning more than six decades. Bryan’s writing and vibrant colored collage paper-cut illustrations have adorned the pages of more than 50 books, ranging from folklore, poetry collections and experiences that celebrates community and individuality. He has received numerous honorary degrees and recognition in the span of his career and has dedicated his life through the pages of so many books we can cherish for a lifetime.

His dedication to illustration of children’s books through African tales, proverbs, and spirituals created some of the most amazing books in children’s literature. Later on in life, Mr. Bryan lived year-round in Islesford, Maine, before joining his niece in Sugarland, Texas, from 2019 until his going away in 2022.

Both whimsical and deeply spiritual, he once said, “There are so many ways in which we learn about life and the self. If you put art into the world, you will get beauty in return.” Bryan drew inspiration from a wide variety of cultures, artistic styles and disciplines. We celebrate Ashley Bryan and his contribution to humanity, diversity and culture.

Eligibility/Criteria

The BCRT award committee will take into account the following:

  • Whether the author publishes literature for children and young adults;
  • How the book(s) demonstrate humanity, diversity, culture and community;
  • How well the book(s) help youth see themselves and their role and importance in society and in the world;
  • How well the book(s) show appreciation of the culture it represents;
  • Whether the book(s) satisfy the curiosity of youth and help them see, learn about, and experience underrepresented cultures;
  • How the literature is relatable with librarians and youth; and
  • How well the book(s) serve as a “window to the ” (expands reader’s view, big picture, and understanding of the world.)
  • Author must have at least 7 books published within the past 10 years.
  • If selected as Finalists, must agree to attend the TLA Conference and be a speaker at the Black Caucus Round Table Author Brunch, the details of which will be conveyed through publisher.
  • Books must be published in the U.S.
  • Self-published authors are not eligible.

Timeline

  • May 15: Nominations open for submission from Active Black Caucus Round Table members only
  • June 29: Nominations close
  • August 8: Committee selects 15 – 20 names for consideration as preliminary candidates
  • September 12: Committee narrows down list to top 10 priority candidates
  • October 24: Committee narrows down list to final 5 candidates
  • November 14: Committee to read and assess work of final 5 candidates
  • December 12: Committee selects the final Award winner
  • April 2025: Award winner to present at BCRT Author Session at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference and will receive $1,000 cash prize and an award plaque

Past Award Recipients 

Year Awarded Author Book Title Type of Award
2024 Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. You So Black Debut