Remembering Joyce Carol Thomas (May 25, 1938 – August 13, 2016)

[By Dominique Waller]

Image courtesy of Balkin Buddies

The African-American Literature community has lost another
treasure. On August 13, 2016 Joyce Carol Thomas died in Stanford, California. The award winning children’s author, poet, and playwright’s
passing was confirmed by her sister Flora Krasnovsky, stating that Thomas
contracted cirrhosis of the liver from a blood transfusion.

Thomas wrote primarily adult plays and poetry before her
first young-adult novel Marked by Fire was published in 1982, and adapted into a gospel musical under the name of
Abyssinia in 1987. The novel went
on to win the National Book Award for children’s fiction the next year. Her first picture book, The Blacker the Berry (2008), received Coretta Scott King Honors, an award she received previously for I Have Heard of a Land (1998) along with an IRA/CBC Teachers’ Choice Award. Living in Ponca
City, Oklahoma as child she drew from her own life experience. In 1998, Thomas
told the African American Review that her works were dedicated to showing young
readers a versions of black life that was seldom shown in books. She believed these stories deserved being told.
Along with leaving behind her literary legacy, Mrs. Thomas leaves behind daughter Monica
Pecot, sons Gregory and Michael Withers and
Roy T Thomas III, along with seven grandchildren and
two great-grandchildren. 

You can read more extensively on Mrs. Thomas’ life and
legacy here.

Dominique Waller is a sophomore in Biology at the University of Kansas and HBW staff member.