Celebrating the Life and Work of Julius Lester

"I write because the lives of all of us are stories.  If enough of those stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story.  The differences are merely in the details." - Julius Lester (2001 interview - dept.kent.edu/virginiahamiltonconf) 

Julius Lester, children's author, civil rights activist, and chronicler of black America, passed away at the age of 78 on January 18th, 2018. A St. Louis native, Lester has written more than 40 books, for adults as well as children, with many of them addressing slavery and racism. His first written story was an instructional book on how to play the 12-string guitar, which he co-authored with Pete Seeger. 

He received numerous awards during his lifetime, including the Newbery Honor for "To Be a Slave" (1969), Coretta Scott King award for his young adult novel "Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue" (2006), a Parents' Choice Story Book award for "The Tales of Uncle Remus" (1987), and a Caldecott Honor for "John Henry" (1995).

In addition to writing books, Lester also worked as a professor of black studies and Jewish studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for more than 30 years, as well as recorded two albums of original music, and hosted a radio show and television show.

Lester is survived by his wife and five children.

Below, you can find some of his other children's titles that are available through St. Louis Public Library. To see all of Julius Lester's books available at SLPL, click here

Let's Talk About Race

A picture book that introduces just one of many chapters in a person's story. I am a story. So are you. So is everyone. 


A collection of six original fables with morals both silly and serious.

The Blues Singers

Introduces readers to ten famous blues singers, including Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, and Aretha Franklin. Histories of each figure are provided.

From Slave Ship to Freedom Road

Lester's meditation on the history of slavery, accompanied by vivid paintings that present this history. The artwork provides a full portrait of the trials of tribulations of America's slaves. 

Pharaoh's Daughter

A fictional retelling of the Biblical story of Moses. Lester roots this story in a historical context while still steeping the story in its rich spiritual history.

Black Folktales

Twelve folktales from Africa and America, retold by Lester. Themes range from love to heroes to origins.

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

The story of a black cowboy with a gift for connecting with horses. His gift allows him to tame a herd of wild mustangs. The story is based on a true moment in the life of Bob Lemmons, a Texan cowboy.

Long Journey Home

This book provides a variety of stories told from the African-American experience. The stories center on slavery and the ways it shapes human lives. 

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