Author Muriel L. Feelings dies at 73

Well-known children’s author Muriel Feelings. — SUBMITTED PHOTO

Concerned Black Men member Zamani Feelings of Germantown is inviting the public to remember his mother, Muriel L. Feelings, on Friday.

A memorial service for the well-known children’s author will be held at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church East, 230 W. Coulter St. on Oct. 7 at 11 a.m. Feelings died on Thursday, Sept. 29 surrounded by her two sons. She was later cremated.

“I was in San Diego visiting my brother when I learned that my mother was not doing well in the hospital,” said Zamani Feelings, who was the central character in his mother’s first children’s book “Zamani Goes to Market” published in 1970. “I immediately came back home. Now that my mother is at peace we would just like to let the community know and for all those who knew and loved her to come out to her memorial.”

Feelings was born on July 31, 1938 in Philadelphia in a home surrounded by books. After finishing high school she attended what is now the University of the Arts before relocating to California with her mother and sister. She transferred to what is now California State University at Los Angeles earning a bachelor’s degree in art with minors in Spanish and education.

As a young adult, Feelings returned to Northwest Philadelphia where she taught junior high school. She then moved to New York City where she taught in the public school system and soon joined the Organization for Afro-American Unity. Joining the latter was an impetus for her to accept a teaching assignment at a high school in Kampala, Uganda in 1966.

After returning to New York two years later she rekindled a romantic friendship with artist and book illustrator Tom Feelings. The two wed in 1969. Tom Feelings encouraged his wife to write a children’s book. The couple then immigrated to Guyana where Muriel Feelings continued to write and also trained teachers.

While in Guyana, Muriel and Tom Feelings collaborated on their second book, “Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book” which earned them the Randolph Caldecott Medal in 1972. After moving back to New York and having a second son, Kamili, the couple published “Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book” which also won the Caldecott award in addition to the honors from the Pennsylvania State Library Association and the American Library Association Notable Books in 1972.

Muriel Feelings retreated from the public eye after her 1974 divorce. Yet even up to her death she never gave up her love of children’s literature. One could often find her signing books at the Wadsworth or Sedgwick branches of the Philadelphia Free Library or reading her book/conducting workshops at the African American Children’s Book Fair.

In lieu of flowers the family is asking that donations be sent to Zamani Feelings, 5720 Wissahickon Ave., Apt. D7, Philadelphia, PA 19144.

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