Nebraska Authors

Ray Anthony Shepard

Born 1940 Sedalia, MO (USA)

In his profile on the African American Literature Book Club website, Shepard notes that "As a fifth-grader in Nebraska, I was one of the few Black students in the class, and when American slavery was taught I was embarrassed by the topic." He has sought to present the history of slavery and race in America in such a manner that "young people of color ... (would) not feel the shame, guilt and embarrassment that he felt as a kid while being taught about black history." His first novel for younger readers, Sneakers (1973) was a Council on Interracial Books for Children award winner. His second book Conjure Tales retold African-American short stories that were published in 1890 by Charles W. Chestnutt, a writer of mixed racial heritage recognized as an innovator in addressing complex issues of racial identity in work deeply informed by both literary and folk traditions.

Shepard's book Now or Never!: 54th Massachusetts Infantry's War to End Slavery, (2017) is a work of creative nonfiction that retells the story of the so-called "Glory" regiment of black soldiers in the Civil War. He notes that for many years, on his way to work as an editor at Houghton-Mifflin in Boston, he each day passed Augustus Saint-Gauden's memorial to Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment's white commander, and looking on the features of the black soldiers portrayed there helped inspire him to want to re-tell the great story of their fight against slavery from their own point of view.

Places Lived

Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Massachusetts

Author Of

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction

Keywords

African-American Writers; Black History; African-American History; American History; Civil War; Youth Literature; Creative Nonfiction

Education

Whittier Junior High School, Lincoln, NE
Lincoln High School, Lincoln, NE
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Education, B.S., 1967
Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, M.A. in Teaching, 1971

Occupation

Educator
Textbook editor with Houghton Mifflin publishers
Teacher Training

Honors

Nebraska 150 Books honor for Sneakers, 2017
Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellow at Harvard

Associations

Boston Atheaeum
Vietnam Veteran

Bibliography

Sneakers. 1973.
Conjure Tales by Charles W. Chestnutt. Retold by Ray Anthony Shepard. 1973.
Now or Never!: 54th Massachusetts Infantry's War to End Slavery. 2017.
Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge. 2021.

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Ray Anthony Shepard
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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)