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Black History Month spotlight: Kadir Nelson illuminates through artistic brilliance

The man behind many recognizable art masterpieces
Get to know award winning artist, Kadir Nelson with these four facts. Infographic by Miracle Neal.

Carter G. Woodson planted a seed in 1926 with his Negro History Week that would 50 years later bloom into Black History Month. Black History Month, an annual observance, celebrates the triumphs of Black Americans. The national theme for the 2024 Black History Month features “African Americans and the Arts.” In the spirit of Black History Month, Black heroes, past and present, country-wide and local will be highlighted here in The Feather. The goal of this series is to shed light on lesser known Black Americans who had a great impact in America. This serves to expand students’ understanding of American history by providing them with a glimpse of a piece that is so often missing.  

Kadir Nelson, an award-winning author, illustrator, and painter based in Los Angeles is well known in the visual world for his magazine cover illustrations. Nelson’s artwork can be found frequently featured on the cover of The New Yorker magazine, honoring the legacy of historical and modern-day personalities.

Nelson’s mastermind goes deeper than his artwork on Michael Jackson’s first album after his death “Michael” and Drake’s 2013 album “Nothing Was the Same.” 

Nelson’s powerful artwork beautifully and intricately captures the human spirit with each brush stroke. His art is also featured on U.S postal stamps, books, and children’s books. Some of his most known children’s books illustrations include the award-winning “Moses,” “We Are the Ship,” and “Ellington was not a Street.” 


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A post shared by Kadir Nelson (@kadirnelson)

In 2007 Nelson was awarded with the Caldecott Honors for his illustrations in “Moses” and the following  year he would receive the award again for his drawings in “Henry’s Freedom Box.” In 2009, his book “We Are the Ship” earned him the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award.  

Nelson’s artistic journey began at a young age, as he began drawing at the age of three. He remained under the mentorship of his uncle who was also an artist until he was 11-years-old. 

Creating an impressive portfolio throughout his high school career led Nelson to a partial scholarship to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Nelson entered the prestigious institution as an architecture major. 

During his freshman year of college Nelson made the decision to take the risk on his life-long passion and changed his major to illustration. This risk would pay off in 1996, when a few weeks after his graduation, Nelson would be hired for freelance work for Sports Illustrated and as the visual development artist for Amistad, the 1997 horror/mystery film. 

Today Nelson is posting a series of artwork that not only showcases the pain and suffering Black Americans endured for thousands of years but the triumphs and resilience that has blossomed from that. 

Check out his instagram @kadirnelson to see his artwork for #BHM2024. 

To read more from The Feather, visit Editorial: Black History still matters or Black History Month Spotlight:Gwendolyn Brooks shapes history with poetry

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About the Contributors
Miracle Neal
Miracle Neal, Editor in Chief
Second year Feather Veteran, Miracle Neal is a Senior, lifer, and varsity girls soccer captain at Fresno Christian Schools. Neal fully devotes herself to her work, proving to be a hard-working person as she juggles an AP class, college classes at Clovis Community, and playing with the Albion Soccer Club. She continues her journey with The Feather to further develop confidence and people skills she hopes to apply in her future profession as a pediatrician. In her free time, she enjoys indulging in psychology books trying to grasp how her mind and others function.    
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