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Floyd Cooper Day
May 6, 2022 @ 3:30 pm - 4:00 pm
The 2022 Children’s Book Week will include the first annual Floyd Cooper Day, in recognition of the late children’s book author-illustrator who is credited with portraying African American experiences through his storytelling.
Magic City Books and the Tulsa City-County Library are partnering with author Traci Sorell to host a special afternoon story time featuring books written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. This event will take place at Central Library, (5th and Denver in Downtown Tulsa). Books written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper will be read by Traci Sorell and will be available for sale through Magic City Books.
Floyd Cooper illustrated more than 100 children’s books over his 30 year career. Cooper was known for his pastel-drawn illustrations that depicted Black lives with historical accuracy. His works garnered numerous industry accolades, including three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Citations and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 2009.
Floyd Cooper was born in Tulsa in 1956 his family had settled in the area after the forced relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans from Southeastern states in the 19th century in what became known as the Trail of Tears. Raised in poverty, Floyd grew up in public housing projects, and he attended 11 different elementary schools.
Encouraged by his art teachers, he developed his artistic talents in high school and earned a scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma, where he studied advertising and graduated in 1978. He became a greeting card designer for Hallmark. But aspiring to illustrate children’s books, he headed to New York in the 1980s. Mr. Cooper got his break in 1988, when he illustrated Eloise Greenfield’s Grandpa’s Face. He went on to write and illustrate his own stories, like Max and the Tag-Along Moon and The Ring Bearer, and he was drawn to projects involving Black history.
Mr. Cooper kept up with the urgent conversation roiling the country about systemic racism and how African American history is taught in the classrooms. Galvanized by the moment, he undertook one of his most personal projects, illustrating Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, a collaboration with Carole Boston Weatherford, that recounts for young readers the destruction of Tulsa’s prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood in 1921, an incident that had been largely ignored in history classes.
As a son of Tulsa, Mr. Cooper had long been interested in the massacre. His maternal grandfather had narrowly escaped the carnage. To work on the project, Mr. Cooper shut himself inside his studio and drew feverishly for months. He emerged with illustrations that brought the past back to life.
“A brilliantly gifted artist and storyteller, Floyd Cooper’s greatest legacy beyond the incredible body of work he leaves behind is how he made [readers] feel in his presence and how encouraging he was,” –Traci Sorell