Jump to content

Patricia McKissack

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Patricia McKissack
Patricia McKissack in 2012
Patricia McKissack in 2012
BornPatricia L'Ann Carwell
August 9, 1944
Smyrna, Tennessee
DiedApril 7, 2017
Bridgeton, Missouri
GenreChildren's literature, Biography, Historical fiction, Folktale
SpouseFredrick McKissack

Patricia C. McKissack (née Carwell; August 9, 1944 – April 7, 2017) was a prolific African American children's writer.[1] She was the author of over 100 books, including Dear America books A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl; Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, The Great Migration North; and Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl. She also wrote a novel for The Royal Diaries series: Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba. Notable standalone works include Flossie & the Fox (1986), The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (1992), and Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? (1992). What is Given from the Heart was published posthumously in 2019.

McKissack lived in St. Louis. In addition to her solo work, McKissack co-wrote many books with her husband, Fredrick, with whom she also co-won the Regina Medal in 1998. Fredrick died in April 2013 at the age of 73.[2]

Patricia McKissack was also a board member of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, a national not-for-profit that actively advocates for literacy, literature, and libraries.[3]

She also published under the names L'Ann Carwell, Pat McKissack, and Patricia C. McKissack.


Patricia L'Ann Carwell was born to parents Robert and Erma Carwell on August 9, 1944, in Smyrna, Tennessee. She was inspired to be a writer by her mother, who liked to read her the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar,[4] and by her grandparents who told her many stories. Her grandfather's stories usually included the names of her and siblings Nolan and Sarah.[5] Many of the childhood stories she heard from her mother and grandparents later became stories she wrote as an author of books for children and young adults.[6] Other stories, like Goin' Someplace Special (2000), incorporated McKissack's lived experiences. In Goin' Someplace Special, she recalled her favorite place to go as a child, which was the Nashville Public Library. The library was one of the few places in downtown Nashville that was not segregated, so it became a place where McKissack always felt welcome and where she learned her love for reading.[4]

While attending Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University now known as the Tennessee State University, McKissack met up with a childhood friend, Fredrick McKissack, who would later become her husband.[7] She graduated with an English degree in 1964 while Fredrick obtained a civil engineering degree.[7] They were married on December 12, 1965, and started their family right away. After traveling to Missouri, McKissack attended Webster University and graduated with a M.A. in child education.[6] She then became a junior high-school English teacher, but in 1971 realized that she wanted to be an author. After Fredrick's business failed in 1980, the couple decided to pursue a new career path together—writing full-time.[2] They continued their writing partnership up until his death in 2013.

Patricia and Fredrick had three sons. The eldest, Fredrick McKissack, Jr., is also a writer and a journalist who collaborated with his mother to create several books, including the award-winning book for older readers, Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues (1994). Her other two sons, twins Robert Lewis and John Patrick, also collaborated on separate projects with their mother. Robert co-wrote Itching and Twitching: A Nigerian Folktale (2003), and John Patrick co-wrote The Clone Codes trilogy (2010, 2011, 2012). For many years the McKissacks lived in a renovated inner-city home. In 1995, they moved to Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.[2]

Patricia and Fredrick McKissack worked and published more than 100 books together over the course of 20 years. At the time of Fredrick's death, they were working together on at least one work—Let's Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs & Stories From An African American Childhood (2017)—which Patricia completed on her own.[2] McKissack continued writing on her own, but died of cardio-respiratory arrest on April 7, 2017, at the age of 72.[8]


In 1975, Patricia McKissack began her professional writing career. In 1980, she became a full-time author. Her family moved to St. Louis, where she started a writing service. Her husband, Fredrick, also became interested in writing and researching for non-fiction books. One of their goals as a couple was to introduce children to African-American history and the historical figures that went along with it.[9] Fredrick was the researcher of the pair, while Patricia mostly wrote up the research. They worked together to make manuscripts that suited them both, and together they aimed to make history come alive in stories for children. She and Fredrick believed strongly in the contributions of African Americans, and it showed in many of the stories they created together.[10]

Patricia and Fredrick co-authored many books together, starting in 1984,[7] with a biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar entitled Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Poet to Remember. McKissack went on to write many more biographies, some with Fredrick and some by herself, about prominent African American figures, including Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Sojourner Truth.

McKissack wrote mostly non-fiction and focused on issues such as racism and African American history. She wrote several non-fiction books before her first picture book, Flossie & the Fox, which was eventually published in 1986 at Dial Press.[6] This was soon followed by Mirandy and Brother Wind (1988) and Nettie Jo's Friends (1989), all of which focused on Southern African American girls, and were written in an old style of African-American Vernacular English.[6]

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (1992) is McKissack's work most widely held in WorldCat participating libraries.[11] It is a book she wrote from childhood memories, describing the 30 minutes before dark on a summer night when her grandmother would tell spooky stories to her grandchildren.[12]

Patricia and Fredrick worked collaboratively on many works including A Long Hard Journey: The Story of Pullman Porter, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1990. They also were the authors of Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman, which also won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1993. Patricia is also a recipient of a Newbery Honor Book citation (Newbery Medal runner-up),[13] the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award,[14] the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award,[15] and an NAACP Image Award.[16] After Fredrick's death the McKissacks jointly received the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.[17]


Beside the three Coretta Scott King Award winners listed here, six other books by McKissack were runners-up or Coretta Scott King Honor Books (all in the writers category). All nine of those books are marked in the list of works immediately below (‡).[18]

Other runners-up:

Selected books[edit]


  1. ^ "Biography: Patricia C. McKissack" Archived 2011-05-23 at the Wayback Machine. Scholastic Teachers (scholastic.com/teachers). Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  2. ^ a b c d "Fredrick McKissack dies; his writing was a business and a love affair shared with his wife". Michael D. Sorkin. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  3. ^ "The NCBLA Board of Directors" Archived 2012-03-22 at the Wayback Machine. The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA). Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  4. ^ a b Viswanathan, Meena (2015-04-01). "The Art of Storytelling". Memphis Parent - Memphis, TN. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  5. ^ Parker-Rock, Michelle. (2009). Patricia and Fredrick McKissack : authors kids love. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers. ISBN 9780766027596. OCLC 191090302.
  6. ^ a b c d Bishop, Rudine Sims (1992-01-01). "Profile: A Conversation with Patricia McKissack". Language Arts. 69 (1): 69–74. JSTOR 41411562.
  7. ^ a b c Roberts, Sam (2017-04-12). "Patricia McKissack, Prolific Author Who Championed Black Heroes, Dies at 72". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Henderson, Jane (2017-04-10). "Patricia C. McKissack, honored children's author from Chesterfield, dies at 72". stltoday.com. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  9. ^ Beacon, Gloria S. Ross for The St Louis. "Fredrick L. McKissack passes at 73". St. Louis American. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  10. ^ Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth. Archived 2008-01-15 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "McKissack, Pat 1944-2017". WorldCat Identities. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  12. ^ "TeachingBooks | Author & Book Resources to Support Reading Education". www.teachingbooks.net. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  13. ^ a b "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). 1999-11-30. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  14. ^ a b "Orbis Pictus Award Winners 1990-2000" (PDF). NCTE. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  15. ^ a b "Past Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Winners". The Horn Book. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  16. ^ "List of NAACP Image Awards Winners". NAACP. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  17. ^ a b "Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement". ALA. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  18. ^ a b c d "Coretta Scott King Book Awards - All Recipients, 1970-Present". 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  19. ^ "Addams Award Winners and Honor Books 1953-Present" (PDF). The Jane Addams Peace Association. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  20. ^ "Carter G. Woodson Book Award and Honor Winners". National Council for the Social Studies. 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  21. ^ "Past Winners". PEN America. 2018-12-19. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  22. ^ a b Patricia C. McKissack at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2015-09-11.

External links[edit]