NEW YORK – Author/illustrator Kadir Nelson, 37, went to college on an architectural scholarship, but quickly fell in love with painting, which led to his first job.
"A dream job," he calls it, with a new film studio named DreamWorks.
In 1996, Nelson worked as a "visual development artist," creating artwork that, as he puts it, "would fuel the director's vision."
The director was Steven Spielberg. The film wasAmistad, based on an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship that led to a case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
That job stirred Nelson's interest in history, especially African-American history, which he remembers as being treated as a "sidebar" in school. He now sees it as "essential to understanding the great story of America."
And that's the theme of Nelson's latest illustrated book,Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Balzer & Bray, $19.99, for ages 9 and up).
In 108 pages, including 44 full-page color paintings, it goes from Revolutionary-era slavery to President Obama's election, told in the voice of a woman who's seen it all.