Our History

The 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.

Martin and  Lillie Pope, now both deceased, became President and Vice President of the Foundation, and focused the work of the foundation  on a population and institution especially dear to Ezra: children and public education. Through its programs, the Foundation gives generations of children opportunities to enjoy reading, and hopefully, to develop a lifelong love of learning 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.

Deborah Pope, Executive Director since 2002, has made it her mission to expand the programs to reach as many beneficiaries as possible. For a complete list of current programs, see Programs. For more on past achievements, see Awards & Honors.