Award-winning author and illustrator pair hold first lecture in a series at NIU


Madelaine Vikse

James E. Ransome and Lesa Cline-Ransome held a lecture on Wednesday in the Recital Hall in the Music building where they discussed their work in illustration and children’s books. (Madelaine Vikse | Northern Star)

Award-winning author and illustrator team, James Ransome and his wife Lesa Cline-Ransome, gave the first lecture in a series on Wednesday in the Music Building.

Throughout his three-decade career, Ransome has received an NAACP Image Award and a Coretta Scott King award for his illustrations. 

Ransome also has a history of teaming up with his wife Lesa Cline-Ransome to create books,  Ransome illustrating and Cline-Ransome writing. 

The first talk, “A Book, A Page, A World: The Artistic Journey of Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome,” was a combined lecture between the two that focused on how their artistic relationship and their personal relationship interact. 

The Ransomes talked about how their storytelling process works. They take underrepresented and untold stories and try to find ways to start conversations about equity, resistance and hope. 

In attempts to tell stories of resistance to young people, the Ransomes look to teach readers that they can look to the past for ideas of how to progress.

“Resistance then was a roadmap for resistance now,” Cline-Ransome said. 

Ransome tries to connect younger generations with the stories of the past.

“I try to be the string that connects a variety of things – Satchel Paige, Major Taylor – and bring them back into the conversation,” Ransome said. 

Satchel Paige and Major Taylor are among the figures that the Ransomes have written about together. Ransome chose both Paige and Taylor because he thinks they are figures that were some of the best at their sports possibly ever, Paige for baseball and Taylor for cycling, but gained no recognition due to their skin color and discrimination.

The Ransomes also looked at the way in which past culture, specifically parts that are historically underrepresented, affects modern culture.

Their focus on African American music, writing and sports add a lot to the conversation about these forms of rebellion. 

“Blues speaks to the best of our creativity and ingenuity,” Cline-Ransome said. “It’s part of our cultural legacy.”  

The Ransomes concluded their lecture by talking about how they want to help young people learn about stories that build hope for the future and inspire change and progress in the world.

Jerry L. Johns, a Sycamore resident and a former NIU professor, said that this lecture combined well with his area of research, literacy. 

“I felt like the program could be interesting,” Johns said. 

“This lecture directly aligned with our visions and values,” said Paul Kassel, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Kassel lauded the interdisciplinary nature of the talk, tying together literature, art and social justice. He also said this talk builds what he calls a circle of virtue. 

“It helps us to promote and prompt each other to progress,” said Kassel. 

Ransome will give the next two lectures alone.

Ransome’s second talk, “A Harmony of Pictures and Words,” will be at 6 p.m. on Oct. 13 in Altgeld Hall Room 125. 

The lecture will be centered around the combination of words and pictures in storytelling. Ransome plans to speak on the way in which words and illustrations work together to tell a cohesive story. 

Ransome’s final lecture will be at 2 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the NIU Art Museum Rotunda Gallery in Altgeld Hall.

The final lecture will be more informal than the first two. It is the closing reception for Ransome’s visit to NIU and for the exhibit of his art in the Rotunda Gallery. 

For more information, contact Shelby Holtz of the NIU Art Museum by emailing her at [email protected] or check the NIU events calendar posts about these lectures.