Books have the power to change a young reader’s life. Books can inspire young people to achieve their goals and reach new heights. That’s what author Gil L. Robertson is hoping his new book, Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past and Present, does.
Though inspired by the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, 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. The Book of Black Heroes was published by Just Us Books.
“African American history is so rich and full of outstanding achievements and accomplishments made against difficult and, sometimes seemingly impossible, obstacles,” says Just Us Books co-founder Wade Hudson. “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 and 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.”
The book includes Black leaders from all walks of life, from Reconstruction era senator and governor Hiram Rhodes Revels and Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback from Mississippi and Louisiana respectively, to their contemporary counterparts like Kamala Harris from California and Lawrence Douglas Wilder from Virginia. Myrlie Evers, widow of slain Civil Rights hero Medgar Evers, penned the book’s foreword.
Robertson, who also curated and edited three groundbreaking anthologies, including Family Affair: What It Means to Be African American, is embarking on a multi-city tour, with public programs planned in Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and more, this summer.
Gil Robertson tells TNJ.com the story behind the book.
TNJ.com: How did the children’s book come about?
Gil Robertson: My earlier books targeted adults and I was looking for a way that I could deliver strong and positive messages to the youth market. The theme of leadership was something that has been important to me since I was a child and I felt like the topic would be a good one to share with young audiences. I approached Wade and Cheryl Hudson who own Just Us Books and they agreed with me and so I began work on the project. The book provides introductions to politicians of the past and present, and it was also important to me that we presented a good balance of females who are making inroads in elected office as well. I also included republican leaders like Tim Scott and Mia Lowe. It’s a fun and insightful read that I hope will get the wheels moving in the heads of our youth on how they can develop the skills to become leaders themselves.
TNJ.com: Why did you want to do it?
Gil Robertson: I really believe that change is something that we have to work towards and contribute to. I think the election of Barack Obama provides a great example of how the seemingly impossible can be achieved if we work hard enough individually and as a collective. This book represents me doing my part by sharing the work and accomplishments of Black political leaders past and present. I feel that leadership aspirations among our youth had taken a bit of a dip and I wanted to create a vehicle that would remind the young people of today about the tremendous gifts that they can give themselves and to others through leadership.
TNJ.com: How will you market the book?
Gil Robertson: My team is currently finalizing plans for a 11-city book tour that will take me into Washington DC, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and Los Angeles. We will work with committees in each market that are made up of local elected officials, educators, youth groups and reading groups to create awareness on the title. In addition to the subjects featured in the book, we will also present a rotating spotlight on political leaders via my website at booksbygil .com