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Patricia C. McKissack (August 9, 1944 – April 7, 2017) was an American children's writer. She is best known for writing books about African-American history, many of which have won awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award. McKissack is the author of three books in the Dear America series, including A Picture of Freedom, Color Me Dark, and Look to the Hills. She also wrote Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba in The Royal Diaries.


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Patricia L'Ann McKissack was born to civil servant parents Robert and Erma Carwell on August 9, 1944, in Smyrna, Tennessee. She was inspired to be a writer by her mother who always read her poetry and also by her grandparents who told her many stories. Her father's stories usually included the names of her and siblings Nolan and Sarah. The characters in these stories were always smart and brave, characteristics present in Patricia's later works.

While attending the Tennessee State University, Patricia met up with a childhood friend, Fredrick McKissack, who would later become her husband. She graduated with an English degree while Fredrick obtained a civil engineering degree. They were married in 1965 and started their family right away. Patricia became a junior high-school English teacher but in 1971 realized that she wanted to be an author. Her first book was a biography of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, her mother's favorite poet. She went on to write many more biographies.

In 1975, Patricia McKissack began her professional writing career. She wrote mostly non-fiction and focused on issues such as racism. She spent considerable time writing 20 non-fiction books before she wrote her first picture book. Flossie & the Fox was sent to Ann Schwartz, who was an editor at Dial Press. Schwartz threw the manuscript aside, saying it was too long. Patricia did not want to shorten her manuscript at all but finally shortened it to six pages, when it was finally accepted.

She became a full-time author in 1980. Her family moved to St. Louis, where she started a writing service. Her husband, Fredrick McKissack also then became interested in writing and researching for non-fiction books. One of their goals as a couple was to introduce children to African-American history and the historical figures that went along with it. Fredrick was the researcher of the pair, while Patricia mostly wrote up the research. They worked together to make manuscripts that suited them both, and together they aimed to make history come alive in their stories for children.

Patricia and her husband Fredrick worked and published over 100 books together, 20 years in the making. At the time of his death, Fredrick had said that they worked very well together, and that their partnership was as strong as ever. He had said that they even "sigh at the same time." Patricia McKissack still longed to teach through her books and stated, "she is not a black writer but rather a writer who happens to be black--she writes for children of all races." Patricia McKissack passed away on April 7, 2017 at the age of 72, four years after her husband.


Dear America[]

The Royal Diaries[]

Selected works[]


External links[]