The Power of an Idea: A Salute to Coretta Scott King Book Award Founders

CSK Book Awards FoundersIn 1969, there was a chance meeting, between Mabel McKissick, a school librarian from New London, Connecticut and Glyndon Greer, a school librarian from Englewood, New Jersey at an American Library Association Conference.  The two school librarians were vying for a poster of the late Martin Luther King Jr. that was on display at the booth of the Carroll Publishing Company. Having attended the Caldecott/Newbury Banquet the night before, a genial conversation evolved about their observation of the lack of recognition of African American authors.

John Carroll, a publisher from a small publishing company in New York, overheard the conversation. It has been reported that he said, “Then why don’t you ladies establish your own award?”   Before the conference ended, the idea of an award for African American authors became a reality.  In the first CSK Book Award History E.J. Josey writes in the forward “She (Glyndon Greer) and her colleagues Mabel McKissick, John F. Carroll, Beatrice James, Roger McDonough, Ella Gaines Yates, and several others took steps toward giving public attention to the works black authors.”

The selection of Mrs. King as the namesake for the award was based on a profound admiration and friendship that Glyndon Greer, had for Mrs. King and the commitment she made to continue the work of Dr. King after his death. From the inception, the award was designed to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

All of America is indebted to the CSK Book Awards for the job it does to encourage the writing about African American history and making that history come alive for today’s generation of readers. For nearly half a century, such outstanding African American authors and illustrators as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, Jerry Pinkney, and Christopher Paul Curtis have been honored by the ALA as Coretta Scott King Book Award recipients. The Coretta Scott King Book Award has succeeded as one of the ALA's most prestigious honors.


Smith, Henrietta, (Ed.) The Coretta Scott King Awards Book: From Vision to Reality. Chicago/American Library Association, 1994 (Forward)

Smith, Henrietta.  “The Origins of the Coretta Scott King Award” Lee & Low blog guest blogger post, February 25, 2013. Accessed October 3, 2018


Carolyn L. Garnes
Chair, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Marketing Committee