Friday, September 22, 2023

Just Us Books, Nation’s Leading Black Owned Children’s Book Publisher, Celebrates 35th Anniversary

(West Orange, NJ) September 22, 2023 ─ The average life span of a small business is eight and a half years according to The New York Times. As Just Us Books prepares to celebrate 35 years in business, it’s not only beating the odds, it’s also continuing to blaze a trail, publishing children’s books that center and celebrate Black stories, history and culture.

“Just Us Books’ 35th anniversary is not just a celebration of our company,” says Wade Hudson, CEO and co-founder. “It’s a recognition of 35 years of children reading, learning, growing, and being affirmed through stories that reflect the richness of Black culture and history, which is especially important in today’s climate of banned and challenged books.”

The company plans to celebrate the milestone throughout its 35th year, which begins October 1, 2023, with special content and events, including a bookfair being planned for spring.

“We’re reminded every day ─ by teachers, librarians, parents, readers of all ages ─ that our work, our books are needed,” says Cheryl Hudson, Editorial Director and co-founder of Just Us Books. “Their support has been such a big part of Just Us Books’ journey. So we’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone with our extended community throughout the year.”

The Just Us Books journey began in the early 1980s. Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, who live in East Orange, NJ, were parents in search of children's books that reflected the diversity of Black history, heritage and experiences. Disappointed by the number they found and their limited availability, the couple embarked upon a mission: to create the kind of positive, Black-interest books that they wanted for their own two children.

Combining their experience, Wade’s in writing and marketing, Cheryl’s in art and publishing, they developed ideas for books that shared universal children’s themes from an Afrocentric perspective. The couple presented manuscripts to publishing houses but they were repeatedly turned down ― several publishing professionals even doubting the viability of a market for children’s books featuring Black characters. So the Hudsons decided to publish the books themselves. The AFRO-BETS A B C Book was released in 1987 and Just Us Books was incorporated a year later.

The success of the small press soon proved doubters wrong. Titles including Bookof Black Heroes From A to Z and Bright Eyes, Brown Skin became classroom and library staples. And larger publishing companies followed Just Us Books’ lead, publishing and widely distributing more children’s books featuring diverse stories and characters.

The company’s 35-year history has been marked by numerous accomplishments including a production partnership with Crown, an imprint of Random House, which produced the three anthologies including the award-winning We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices; a 1999 marketing partnership with General Mills and the UniverSoul Circus; and the publication of In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers, a book about the Black family that brought together celebrated authors and artists, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Virginia Hamilton, Walter Dean Myers, Jeanne Moutousammy-Ashe, Leo and Diane Dillon, Fred and Patricia McKissack. Its books, including From A Child’s Heart; The Secret Olivia Told Me, I’m A Big Sister Now and Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence, have earned numerous awards. Just Us Books has won multiple honors, including Small Business Pioneer of the Year, the Children’s Book Council Diversity Award, and its founders have become recognized leaders in publishing and the push for diversity in children’s literature, with the couple being awarded the prestigious Carle Honor for Mentorship in 2022. 

In 35 years of operation, Just Us Books has become more than a children's book publishing company; it's become an institution. It also remains one of the nation's few Black-owned publishers. And the company continues its mission grounded in the same belief that helped launch the company three and a half decades ago: Good books make a difference.

Just Us Books’ titles can be purchased wherever books are sold and via its website: Connect with the company on social at @JustUsBooks across all platforms.

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