Day 29: Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

All images are the exclusive property of Stephan Hudson for “Stephan Hudson Photography” and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.

Over the years, we’ve been blessed to have many supporters. Wade Hudson, Cheryl Willis Hudson and the Just Us Books family are among those who have been in our corner the longest. Trailblazing publishers and award-winning children’s book creators, the Hudsons are all about sharing, empowering and offering support. Their example has been a beacon to us.

While being kidlit leaders who possess invaluable knowledge and experience, they’ve never stood apart. From the beginning, the Hudsons have stood side by side with us, promoting our projects, helping us continue the work they and others started of advocating for change in the industry, including our members in their acclaimed anthologies and being there whenever needed.

We’re grateful to have the Hudsons as the finale to our 28 Days Later celebration. An extra day meant extra time to show love and offer thanks for the outstanding contributions they’ve made for more than three decades. Please read their wonderful essay below and support their work by buying their books and those they publish –

Time to Celebrate

By Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson

35 years! It doesn’t seem that long.

People have asked what we are most proud of after reaching such a momentous milestone. We could point to the many important people we have met, inside and outside the book publishing industry. They include LeVar Burton, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Cathy Hughes and so many more. We could cite the honors and literary awards we have received. Or we could boast about the respect we’ve garnered from those in the kidlit community and the community at large. These accolades are certainly important. But we are most proud, however, of the growing number of Black book creators and book creators of color who have become a part of this often challenging and difficult business.

We remember how lonely it was when we began our journey in the 80s. Just a handful, dedicated and committed folks, carried on the struggle to produce books that represented our diversity. We would often gather informally at conferences such as ABA, IRA and ALA. Many of these friends have since passed on: Ashley Bryan, Walter Dean Myers, James Haskins, Eloise Greenfield, Tom Feelings, Floyd Cooper, Bernette Ford, Virginia Hamilton, Arnold Adoff, Basil Phillips, Henrietta Smith, and Jerry Pinkney. Their hard work and advocacy has given rise to a new generation of book creators, publishing professionals and advocates. Savvy and empowered, this new breed has taken the baton and charged down the track with foresight, insight and vigor. We are blessed to share the legacy of those earlier pioneers, while still carrying the baton along with this new emboldened generation.

So much more work still needs to be done. Although many problems and challenges confront us, to not recognize the progress that has been achieved over the years is to rob those pioneers of their trailblazing legacy. There are many more Black and IPOC involved in the industry today than there were when we started Just Us Books in 1988. Some major awards have been won. Bestsellers lists have been reached. A growing number of imprints at major publishers that target diversity has emerged. Organizations such as The Brown Bookshelf, We Need Diverse Books, Kweli’s The Color of Children’s Literature Conference, Children Book Council and others advocate aggressively for more much needed progress.

The banning of books and the movement to erase, censor and undo hard-won progress are among the challenges that confront all of us. But this is not new. Backlash has always emerged to stop the movement toward a more fair and equitable society. Today, we are better positioned to confront it than ever before.

We are also proud to be members of a loving, supportive kidlit community. As an African proverb reminds us, “If

All images are the exclusive property of Stephan Hudson for “Stephan Hudson Photography” and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.

you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Most of us in the kidlit community know this to be true. So, we support each other. We encourage each other. We share information about the industry with each other. We celebrate each other’s successes. And we buy each other’s books!

We are proud that after 35 years our company’s motto is as true as it ever was: “Good books still make a difference.”

Finally, we are especially proud of our daughter Katura and son Stephan who are now the bright lights of Just Us Books. We are proud of the support from our family, especially Willie and Major Hudson, long-time members of the Just Us Books staff. We are proud of all of those who have been in our corner on this journey, without whose support we would not have succeeded.

Recently, Writing Our Future: A Celebration of Black Children’s Literature, part of Just Us Books’ year-long activities marking our 35 years in the industry, was held at the Montclair Public Library. It was a joyful celebration indeed—full of authors, illustrators, educators, librarians and young readers.

Yes, we are 35 years old and counting. Langston Hughes said it in his poem “Still Here.”

Still Here

I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,

Looks like between ’em they done
Tried to make me

Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!


Perhaps, though, the lyrics from a James Cleveland gospel song says it best: “God is not through with ‘us’ yet.”


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