A History of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

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How We Began

Apt.-3-190The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation was incorporated in 1964, with Ezra as President and his lifelong friend, Martin Pope, as Secretary, and remained private until Ezra’s death, in 1983. His will directed that the Foundation use the royalties from his books for social good. It was left to his successors to decide how best to carry out his wishes.

With Ezra’s royalties, Martin Pope and his late wife, Lillie Pope, who became President and Vice President of the Foundation, focused their efforts on a population especially dear to Ezra: children. During his impoverished boyhood, the public schools where he won prizes in art and the public libraries where he learned about the world were lifelines that allowed him to dream of success. Through the support of its programs, the Foundation gives generations of children the same kind of opportunities, and hopefully, to a lifetime of learning, a love of reading and a belief in themselves.

Ezra’s commitment to diversity in children’s books is acknowledged by the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, which recognizes emerging writers and illustrators whose books reflect our diverse culture. The Foundation also supports fellowships for the study of children’s literature and scholarships in art and music to universities, museums, music schools and other public organizations.

Many of the programs implemented by Martin and Lillie Pope are still going strong. Deborah Pope, Executive Director since 1999, has made it her mission to expand the programs to reach as many beneficiaries as possible. Below is a partial list of current and past programs and the dates they began. For a complete list of current programs, see Programs. For more on past achievements, see Awards & Honors.

Current Programs

Past Programs