Bud, Not Buddy was written by Christopher Paul Curtis in 1999. Like his main character Bud, Curtis grew up in Flint, Michigan.
Curtis drew many of the book's events from actual happenings during the Great Depression and stories of the 1930's passed down through his family. He especially wanted to show the plight of the African American during the 1930's. Only a subset of jobs were open to African Americans during years of economic prosperity, and when the Great Depression hit, many of those jobs disappeared. Two of the available jobs were redcap (railway porter) and musician/entertainer, jobs held by Curtis' two grandfathers. Curtis bases the characters of Lefty Lewis and Herman E. Calloway on these two men.
Curtis also wished to portray the importance of music during the Depression as an escape and a rare source of joy during difficult times. He also conveys the plight of children with Bud's journey- many children, orphans or not, had to make solo journeys, do odd jobs, ride the rails, beg, and steal in order to obtain food.
Bud, Not Buddy won the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award, an award for exemplary African American authors, in 2000.