Sunday, November 6, 2022

Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence Wins 2022 Children’s Africana Book Award

We were honored to celebrate with Useni Eugene Perkins and Laura Freeman as they accepted the Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) Best Book for Young Children distinction for their picture book Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence this weekend in DC. 

The Children’s Africana Book Awards are presented annually to the authors and illustrators of the best children’s and adult books on Africa published in the U.S. Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) created CABA in 1991 to encourage the publication of and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials about Africa.

The two-day celebration included an awards presentation on Friday, Nov. 4 and a festival at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on Saturday, Nov. 5, featuring book signings, drumming, writing workshops and a panel with this year’s CABA winners, who discussed their creative process, research and collaboration in creating their award-winning books.

Thank you to CABA for this honor and to Useni and Laura for collaborating with Just Us Books to create this important title!

CABA Author Illustrator panel (pictured from left) Useni Eugene Perkins, Laura Freeman, Safia Elhilo, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, & Brenda Randolph interviewed by Brenda Randolph,
 chair of CABA and founder of Africa Access. Not pictured: Vanessa Oyugi.

Bringing a bit of Ghana to the DMV. Useni Eugene Perkins and Laura Freeman, creators of Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence, visit Friendship Charter School in DC before the awards event. Special thanks to Open Book for getting our book into students hands!

Friday, September 30, 2022

Just Us Books Founders Wade and Cheryl Hudson Receive 2022 Carle Honors Award for Mentorship

Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, founders of leading independent children's publisher Just Us Books, were recognized for their many contributions to children's literature with a 2022 Carle Honors award from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. The award was presented at the Carle Honors Benefit Gala and Art Auction on Thursday, September 29, Guastavino’s in New York City.

2022 Carle Honors mentor awardees Wade and Cheryl Hudson
photo: Stephan Hudson

Now in its 16th year, the annual gala and fundraiser celebrates individuals and organizations whose creative vision and long-term dedication have had a profound effect on picture books and the vital role they play in arts appreciation and early literacy. 

Wade and Cheryl were honored for their contributions as mentors -- reflected in their more than three decades of work as authors, publishers, and leading advocates for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the children’s book industry. 

Fellow honorees were Faith Ringgold (artist award); Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (angel award); and Ajia (bridge award).

A replay of the event is available here.

Wade and Cheryl Hudson are interviewed about their award

photo: Stephan Hudson

2022 Carle Honors awardees
photo: Stephan Hudson

Artist and the Hudsons' longtime friend George Ford stands with the print he donated for the auction
photo: Stephan Hudson

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Just Us Books Founders Share "How they Book"

How Do You Book? That’s the theme for Children’s Book Week, which celebrates kidlit and a love for reading. This theme asks us to think about:

- What we read
- Where we read
- How we read
To celebrate, we asked authors and Just Us Books founders Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, to answer these questions. You also get a peak at what's on their reading list right now.

How Do You Book, Wade Hudson?
📚 What I Read I have an eclectic taste. As a children's and young adult author and publisher I read as many books for young readers as possible. I am also concerned about political issues and read books that cover them as well. I also read books that focus on history, particularly, Black history as well as good novels. 📚 Where I Read I usually read at home, mostly in the evening, unless I am doing research for a manuscript I am writing. That reading becomes a priority and I usually schedule it just as I schedule my writing. 📚 How I Read When reading for enjoyment and engagement, I prefer a relaxed environment with coffee and drinks and snacks readily available.

How Do You Book, Cheryl Willis Hudson?
📚 What I Read
I read lots of children's books. Picture books are my favorites, but I enjoy nonfiction, biographies, and fiction by adult writers as well. I enjoy graphic novels, too.
📚 Where I Read
I read at any time of the day, but mostly in the afternoon. Since I spend a large part of my day working at my computer and reading articles on my phone, I've recently started to listen to audio books in the evenings and before I go to bed. Audio books bring more variety and entertainment value and the voices add dramatic effects to the process of reading.
📚 How I Read
I read for information, research purposes and for pleasure. Most of the time there is music playing in the background. When I was much younger, I needed to read in a very quiet place without distractions like the radio or TV, and I could never read in a moving car or train or plane. Now I can and do enjoy reading almost anywhere!

❓ Tell us - How do YOU book?

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence Wins 2022 Africana Children's Book Award

On the eve of Ghana’s Independence Day, we’re excited to announce that Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence by Useni Eugene Perkins and Laura Freeman was named winner of the 2022 Children’s Africana Book Award - best book for young children. 

The awards are presented annually to the authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S. 

Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) created CABA in 1991 to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials about Africa. We’re thrilled this beautiful collaboration between Useni and Laura earned this distinction. 

Learn more about the book and buy it here.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Celebrating Black KidLit Creators

 We're celebrating Black history and sharing our stories all year long, right? Right. So we curated a list of 50 Black kidlit creators who should be on your radar and your bookshelf.

Click the image below for a video highlighting the authors and illustrators listed.

(Listed in the order they are pictured in the video)

George Ford, illustrator (Bright Eyes, Brown Skin)

Jacqueline Woodson, author (The Year We Learned to Fly)

Floyd Cooper, author-illustrator (Max and the Tag-Along Moon)

Wade Hudson, author (Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South)

Rita Williams-Garcia, author (A Sitting in St. James)

Pat Cummings, author-illustrator (Trace)

Cheryl Willis Hudson, author (Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life)

Eric Velasquez, author-illustrator (Octopus Stew)

Renee Watson, author (She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey)

Jason Reynolds, author (Stuntboy in the Meantime)

Laura Freeman, illustrator (Kwame Nkrumah and the Midnight Speech for Independence)

Javaka Steptoe, illustrator (Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat))

Nikki Grimes, author (Kamala Harris: Rooted In Justice)

Kwame Alexander, author (The Undefeated)

Sharon M. Draper, author (Out of My Heart)

James Ransome, illustrator (Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams)

Joyce Hansen, author (African Princess)

Derrick Barnes, author (I Am Every Good Thing)

Kelly Starling Lyons, author (Sing A Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations)

Vanessa Brantley Newton, author-illustrator (Just Like Me)

Walter Dean Myers, author (Monster)

Ibi Zoboi, author (The People Remember)

Sharon Flake, author (The Life I’m In)

Jerry Pinkney, illustrator (The Little Mermaid)

Virginia Hamilton, author (Her Story: African American Folktales, Fairies and True Tales)

Kwame Mbalia, author (Tristan Strong Destroys the World

Diane Lewis Patrick, author (Mekena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me)

Frank Morrison, illustrator (R-E-S-P-E-C-T Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul)

Marilyn Nelson, author (Papa’s Free Day Party)

Tony Media, author (Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy)

Tracey Baptiste, author (African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History)

Jerry Craft, author-illustrator (Class Act)

Carole Boston Weatherford, author (Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre)

Gordon James, illustrator (Let ‘Er Buck)

Mildred Taylor, author (All the Days Past, All the Days To Come)

John Steptoe, author-illustrator (Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters)

Nic Stone, author (Clean Getaway)

Andrea Davis Pickney, author (Martin Rising: Requiem for a King)

EB Lewis, illustrator (Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis)

Dhonielle Clayton, author (The Everlasting Rose)

Kadir Nelson, illustrator (Coretta Scott)

Zetta Elliott, author (The Witch’s Apprentice)

Shane Evans, illustrator (Hands Up)

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author (Operation Sisterhood)

Jabari Asim, author (Yonder)

Tonya Bolden, author (Saving Savannah)

Bryan Collier, illustrator (We Shall Overcome)

James Haskins, author (Freedom Rides: Journey for Justice)

Eloise Greenfield, author (The Women Who Caught the Babies)

Angie Thomas, author (Concrete Rose)

Thursday, September 9, 2021

New Picture Book from Just Us Books, Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence, Continues Publisher’s Celebration of Freedom

Poet-activist Useni Eugene Perkins and Coretta Scott King Honor winner Laura Freeman team up to share the story of Ghana’s independence

(West Orange, NJ) September 9, 2021 – Continuing its focus on stories that celebrate freedom, leading independent children’s book publisher Just Us Books will publish Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Laura Freeman. The picture book will be released in hardcover on Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday, September 21.

With prose by renowned poet-activist Perkins and illustrations by Coretta Scott King Honor winner Freeman, Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence captures the magic of the night Ghana was declared a free nation and shares the remarkable life of Kwame Nkrumah — one of Africa’s most celebrated leaders.

Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence follows the spring 2021 publication of Papa’s Free Day Party another freedom story published by Just Us Books. Written by Marilyn Nelson and illustrated by Wayne Anthony Still, it centers on the author’s grandfather, who escaped racist attacks as a child and went on to build a new life in the all-Black town of Boley, Oklahoma. This fall, Just Us Books is also collaborating with Crown Books for Young Readers to release Recognize: An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life. Edited by Just Us Books founders Wade and Cheryl Hudson, it features award-winning Black authors and artists who’ve come together to create a moving collection that celebrates Black love, Black creativity, Black resistance, and Black life.


Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence
Written by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Laura Freeman, published by Just Us Books
ISBN 978-0-940975-86-6, $17.99, hardcover, ages 4-8

On a humid March night in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah made history. While thousands of people cheered, including dignitaries from round the world, he announced his country's independence. After many years of British rule, Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, became the first sub-Saharan African nation to break free from colonial rule.

Useni Eugene Perkins is a multi-faceted writer and activist who was a prominent voice in the Black Arts Movement. His writings for young people include Home is a Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of Black ChildrenRise of the Phoenix: Voices from Chicago’s Black Struggle, 1960 to 1975 (Third World Press), Poetry from the Masters: Black Arts Movement (Just Us Books), and the celebrated picture book, Hey Black Child (Little Brown) illustrated by Bryan Collier. In 1999 he was inducted into the Gwendolyn Brooks Literary Hall of Fame. In 2003, Useni was featured in, a digital archive dedicated to preserving histories of African Americans. He has travelled to Ghana many times and in 2007 was inducted into the Gefia Society in Akatsi, Volta Region, Ghana and installed as their Academic Development Chief under the stool name of Torgbui Perkins Agbale I. Learn more about Useni  at

Laura Freeman is the award-winning illustrator of over 30 picture books for children including Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (Harper Collins), Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes (Atheneaum) and Dream Builders: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons (Lee and Low Books). She also illustrated six titles in the I Love to series (Marimba Books). A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Laura has been awarded the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and the NAACP Image Award for her work. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their two children. Visit her at

Just Us Books is an independent, Black-owned publisher of children’s books that celebrate the diversity of Black people, history, and culture. Founded in 1988 by husband-and-wife team, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, its titles range from board books for infants to novels for young adults and have helped the company win numerous awards for its contributions to publishing, including Small Business Pioneer of the Year and the Children’s Book Council Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award. In more than 32 years of operation, Just Us Books has become an institution in children’s publishing and remains one of the nation's few Black-owned presses. Just Us Books titles can be purchased wherever books are sold and through its web site: 

Connect with Just Us Books on social @JustUsBooks across platforms.

Digital review galleys of Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence are available upon request. Email: