Tom Feelings was both a writer and an illustrator. He taught illustrating at the University of South Carolina.
Usually, the process is that a manuscript is submitted to a publisher, and the publisher finds an illustrator whose work complements the text. However, Mr. Feelings says that for his recent works, he has instead found authors to write poetry inspired by his drawings!
Much of his work has taken its inspiration from life and the many places he has lived. An example is that Mr. Feelings gave some artwork to Maya Angelou, which inspired her to write a beautiful poem. He then designed the book and took it to the publisher. It was published in 1987 and is called Now Sheba Sings the Song.
Mr. Feelings grew up in a black community in Brooklyn, New York and he chose to use that community to inspire his work. He recognized that most of the images of blacks were negative, and he wanted to create more positive images for blacks. He started with comic books, which have become popular, now 32 years later, and have been re-published.
When he got out of art school, there were very few books that dealt with black subject matter. Mr. Feelings was told by publishers to draw more mainstream images, meaning white people.
Mr. Feelings wanted to know more about himself, so he decided he wanted to live in a larger black community. In 1964, he left for Ghana, West Africa.
When Mr. Feelings came back in 1966, publishers were more interested in minorities. Three of his books have been used on Reading Rainbow, and many are in school libraries and public libraries.
The program closes with a look at some of Mr. Feelings' illustrations.
Tom Feelings died on August, 25, 2003.