Award-winning author Fredrick L. McKissack, who with his wife and collaborator Patricia McKissack created more than 100 children’s books about the African-American experience, died of heart failure on Sunday, April 28 at the age of 73.
According to his publisher, Scholastic, Fredrick worked first as a civil engineer for the city of St. Louis and the U.S. Army, and later owned his own general contracting company in St. Louis.
“There is no magic formula,” Fredrick told Scholastic about his collaboration process with his wife. “Pat and I talk all the time.” “After talking through a project,” Patricia continued, “We outline it. Then Fred does most of the digging and the research, and I write it up on the computer and run off a hard copy. Fred fact-checks and refines it, and then gives it back to me to make his changes and any more of my own.” “Then we run off another hard copy and keep doing that until it satisfies us both,” Fred added.
Their work together led to the publication of several award-winning titles, including a number of Coretta Scott King awards, including their 2003 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Days of Jubilee. Other winning titles include A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter (1990), which won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. They received the same prize in 1995 for Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters and also received that year a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for Black Diamond: Story of the Negro Baseball League. The couple also earned the same prize in 1993 for their biography Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?, in 1997 for Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts, in 2000 for Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers.
The National Kidney Foundation and the United Negro College Fund are the nonprofits the McKissack family have designated for those interested in making a donation in memory of McKissack.