At a time when questionable leadership rules our nation, Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past and Present by Gil Robertson is a timely release.
Though inspired by the 2008 election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States, the first African American to achieve this feat, the veteran journalist, author and one-time politico wanted to explore and promote the concept of leadership using outstanding individuals like Obama to do so.
“I felt that people needed to be reminded that Obama wasn’t an outlier,” explains Robertson. “Instead his historic election was the culmination of visions and actions that began nearly 200 years earlier. Those pioneers are largely unknown and I wanted to do my part to change that. Also, while Obama certainly occupied America’s highest political office, the open secret is that there are even more visionary leaders like Obama operating locally, statewide and in national politics who are on the front lines and committed to truly making America great every day.”
Because Robertson, who curated and edited three groundbreaking anthologies, including Family Affair: What It Means to Be African American, a Publisher’s Weekly “Pick of the Week,” has a long track record of producing work that enlightens and informs, he quickly connected with Just Us Books.
“I thought the concept of leadership was a great fit for the trailblazing publishing house that has been producing books celebrating history and culture for children and young adults for three decades now,” explains Robertson.
But although the publishers, husband-and-wife duo Wade and Cheryl Hudson, loved the concept immediately and bought it, the journey was not a short one. Unfortunately life got in the way. Regardless of how many setbacks took place, the Hudson’s never abandoned Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past and Present or Robertson’s vision to shine a much-needed spotlight on leadership for their children and young adult audience.
“African American history is so rich and full of outstanding achievements and accomplishments made against difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible obstacles, “Wade Hudson said.” We started Just Us Books because we wanted to bring that history to life in as many areas as possible for young readers. When Gil approached us about an idea for a book that would focus on Black political leaders, we knew right away it would be just right for the Book of Black Heroes series we launched. The first three titles, Book of Black Heroes from A to Z, Great Women in the Struggle and Scientists, Healers & Inventors have sold more than a million copies. Political Leaders Past and Present is the fourth book in the series. Given the current political climate, the book’s release is quite timely.”
Their faith paid off and the book is finally set for release. Black leaders from all walks of life are featured. They include Reconstruction era senator and governor Hiram Rhodes Revels and Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback from Mississippi and Louisiana respectively, as well as their contemporary counterparts like Kamala Harris from California and Lawrence Douglas Wilder from Virginia. Some come from humble beginnings while others hail from well-heeled families, but each, past and present, was consumed by a passion to make a difference in their community, a sentiment Robertson hopes will inspire young readers.
“This book is about more than those who have already made a difference. I truly want young people in particular to learn that leadership comes in many forms and is highly attainable,” Robertson says. “I want them to be empowered so that they too can make a difference for themselves and their community.”
Robertson hopes older people will also draw inspiration from the book. He is particularly proud that the great Myrlie Evers, widow of slain Civil Rights hero Medgar Evers, was gracious enough to pen the book’s foreword. In it, the former NAACP leader breaks down different types of leadership, acknowledging that she, herself, was reluctantly drawn to lead after her husband was murdered.
Regardless of how leaders come to their positions, they each have resolved to direct their talents toward change that no obstacles can derail,” Robertson says.
In an effort to bring Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past and Present to life, Robertson is embarking on a multi-city tour, with public programs planned in Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and more, this summer.
“This book was not only a labor of love, it is a gift,” says Robertson. “I strongly believe when we see greatness, we will strive to be great and that’s what I want young people to grasp the most.”
To book award-winning author and journalist Gil Robertson for media, classroom and community events, visit booksbygil.com.