About Julius Lester

Biographical Information:

Born January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a Methodist minister.  Lester later converted to Judaism.

Lester spent much of his childhood in the South of the 1940's and 1950's where he dealt firsthand with Southern attitudes about race and segregation.  In 1960, Lester graduated from Fisk University with a degree in English.  He became politically active in the Civil Rights movement.  In the mid 1960's, he joined SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee where he served as head of their photo department.

Lester originally was a musician who recorded two albums, performed with Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, and Judy collins, and worked as a radio announcer in New York City.  His first book, The 12-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly: an Instructional Manual, dealt with black folk music.

Most of Lester's earlier works were written for adults.  In 1969, he published two works which established his success as a children's author.  These two works were To Be a Slave, a Newbery Honor Book, and Black Folktales.
His subsequent works continued to show his interest in African American history, folklore, and politics.

Since the early 1970's, Lester has served as a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

For more information about Julius Lester:

Telgin, Diane, ed.  1993. Something About the Author. Vol. 74. Detroit: Gale. pp. 158-162.

Fogelsong, Marilee, ed. 1999. Lives and Works: Young Adult Authors. Danbury: Grolier. pp. 35-37.

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Created and last updated March 28, 1999.