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Artist Kadir Nelson visits Wilmington Public Library

The Wilmington Public Library got a visit from a renowned artist and children’s book author and illustrator Thursday.



Kadir Nelson’s art has appeared on several covers of The New Yorker. He did the cover art for Drake’s album “Nothing Was the Same.” His portrait of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, is in the collection of the U.S. House of Representatives.




Thursday, Nelson showed up at the Wilmington Public Library.

He signed and gave away children’s books. He also talked with a group of more than fifty kids about his journey as an artist — beginning at the age of 5.

“If there’s someone out there that wants to be an artist, it’s great to hear how someone became an artist. What their story was and the steps that they took,” said Nelson.

The books Nelson has authored and illustrated include “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.”

Nelson says his books focus on stories of overcoming adversity.

“I think that once we really kind of step into our own shoes and become that hero, we can pretty much overcome whatever obstacles are facing us,” said Nelson. “Whether it’s with the Negro Leagues or Martin Luther King, … they’re all telling the same stories.”


Nelson also illustrated the cover of “Miles Morales: Spider-Man,” a Marvel novel by Jason Reynolds.


Kadir Nelson, R. Shirley Anita Chisholm, United States House of Representatives. Oil on canvas.

Jamar Rahming, director of Wilmington Institute Libraries, says he thinks Nelson’s art depicts the nuance of the African American experience.

“We have a constituency [at the Wilmington Public Library] that’s majority African American. And we serve children. So we need to provide venues and avenues to where these kids can see themselves in books, and see themselves in works of art,” said Rahming.

Prints of Nelson’s artwork are on display at the Wilmington Public Library through April 1.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.