Works in the Collection
Tom Feelings was born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. He attended George Westinghouse Vocational High School and the Cartoonists’ and Illustrators’ School. He joined the Air Force in 1953, serving a stint in England before returning to the States in 1957. Upon his return, he studied at the School of Visual Arts for two years, all the while solidifying his dedication to depicting the achievements of African Americans. Feelings created the comic strip Tommy Traveler in the World of Negro History which appeared in the Harlem newspaper New York Age in 1958 and was reproduced in book form in 1991. In 1960, he created a comic strip about voter registration for the NAACP, and in 1964, Feelings traveled to Ghana, spending two years there working for the Ghanaian government newspaper The African Review and teaching illustration.
He returned to the US in 1966 and continued illustrating books with African American themes. In 1968, he became a contributor for Golden Legacy black history comics and illustrated To Be A Slave, a non-fiction children’s book by Julius Lester. To Be A Slave was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and was named an ALA Notable Book, Smithsonian Best Book of the Year, and School Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year. In 1971, Feelings was invited to travel to Guyana to head the Ministry of Education’s children’s book project. He returned to the US in 1974 and illustrated a number of books throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He took a teaching position at the University of South Carolina, and in 1995, published his most famous work, The Middle Passage, winning a Coretta Scott King Award for the illustrations. In 1996, the School of Visual Arts presented him with an honorary doctorate. Feelings died in 2003.