By Christine Lin

NEW YORK—Painter and children’s book illustrator Kadir Nelson has long created images of the African-American experience. But his first self-authored children’s book (he has illustrated others prior to this), Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, takes the African-American story on, full force. 

The Society of Illustrators in Manhattan is currently exhibiting 40 original oil paintings from Nelson’s 108-page book, making this one of his most ambitious projects thus far. His large-scale, richly colored paintings have that timeless quality of being able to genuinely connect the viewer with the life of the subjects, reminiscent of illustrators like Norman Rockwell and Dean Cornwell.

The book, featuring vivid and wholesome illustrations, tells virtually the entire history of America and African-Americans through the oral recollection of a fictional 100-year-old woman.

“The narrator is a nameless everywoman character, an elder woman speaking to the reader as the grandchild listening to his or her great-grandmother or grandmother,” said Nelson in a phone interview.

He hopes that through reading a recollection of these fictional characters’ family history, children’s curiosity will reignite the oral history that may have been lost, and they will gain an appreciation for how far Americans in general, and African-Americans in particular, have come in the fight for freedom and equal rights.

The narrator begins with the recollection of the last African-born slave in her family—Pap, who emancipated himself—through whom she tells the slave experience. Then she tells the story of the Civil War, Buffalo Soldiers, and the great migration into northern cities and subsequent labor disputes…

Read the rest of the article at The Epoch Times.

[Featured Image: An illustration by Kadir Nelson]

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