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Cheryl Willis Hudson

Children’s book publisher and author Cheryl Willis Hudson was born on April 7, 1948 in Portsmouth, Virginia to Hayes Elijah Willis, III, an insurance executive, and Lillian Watson Willis, an educator. Hudson attended Oberlin College and graduated cum laude in 1970. The following summer, she enrolled in a summer publishing procedures course at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the fall of 1970, Hudson began working as an art editor in the educational division of Houghton Mifflin in Boston. She and Wade Hudson, a writer, met in Cambridge in 1971 and began collaborating on children’s book ideas. In 1972, she and Hudson were married, and they subsequently moved to New Jersey to live while Wade was enrolled in Channel 13’s film and television training program in New York City. Cheryl continued her career as a graphic designer at Macmillan Publishing Company in New York City and at Arete Publishing in Princeton, New Jersey.

In 1976 the Hudsons first child, Katura, was born and after failing to obtain African American art to ornament her nursery’s walls, Hudson decided to create her own designs. Ultimately, she was inspired to create a children’s book, and although she and Hudson attempted to shop it around to various publishing companies, they were unsuccessful. In 1982, Hudson again gave birth to the couple's second child, Stephan J. Hudson, and three years later, the couple again revived their idea of creating African American children’s art.

In 1985, the Hudsons developed the AFRO-BETS kids, black characters who would twist themselves into the shape of the alphabet. Two years later, after further rejections from various publishers, they invested $7,000 and self-published it. The couple received attention from leading education magazines and black bookstores, which carried the books. After the AFRO-BETS books sold out within three months, the Hudsons founded Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company that publishes books and educational material for children that focus on black history, experiences and culture.

Cheryl Hudson handled the editorial aspects, while her husband served as president of the company, managing the business and marketing aspects. As director of editorial operations she works with authors and artists, and has helped many young aspiring book creators get their start in the publishing industry.

In 1990, Just Us Books, Inc. introduced a bi-monthly newspaper for young people entitled Harambee, which would later win a parent’s choice award. Throughout the 1990s, Just Us Books continued to publish critically acclaimed children’s literature, including Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, Jamal’s Busy Day, Annie’s Gifts, When I Was Little, Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs and Kid Caramel, the first contemporary mystery series to focus on young, black male characters. In 1997, Income Opportunities Magazine named the Hudsons “Small Business Pioneers of the Year.” In 2004, they began the Sankofa Books imprint, which publishes Black classics for children and young adults that are no longer in print.

Hudson is an award-winning author of more than twenty books for children. They include Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, Hands Can, the What A Baby series, Many Colors of Mother Goose, Come By Here, Lord, Everyday Prayers for Children and Langston’s Legacy. A graphic artist, Hudson has designed a number of books published by Just Us Books.

When she’s not writing, editing or art directing children’s books, Hudson is active in her community and publishing industry organizations. She serves on the advisory boards of the Small Press Center and the Langston Hughes Library at the Alex Haley Farm, operated by the Children’s Defense Fund. She is also a member of the Author’s Guild, PEN America and the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators. Among her accolades are the Stephen Crane Award and induction into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in 2003. Hudson also serves as a diversity and parenting expert for ClubMom.com.

Hudson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 28, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.174

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/28/2007

Last Name

Hudson

Maker Category
Middle Name

Willis

Occupation
Schools

I.C. Norcom High School

Oberlin College

Radcliffe College

Mount Hermon Preschool Center

Northeastern University

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Weekends

First Name

Cheryl

Birth City, State, Country

Portsmouth

HM ID

HUD04

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Parents, Teachers, Librarians, Students interested in children's books and literature.

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Parents, Teachers, Librarians, Students interested in children's books and literature.

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

Go With The Flow.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

4/7/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

East Orange

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli

Short Description

Fiction writer Cheryl Willis Hudson (1948 - ) published children's books. Hudson was the co-founder of Just Us Books, Inc. and the developer of AFRO-BETS kids. She was the publisher of Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, Good Morning Baby, Good Night Baby and Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs.

Employment

Just Us Books, Inc.

Hudson Publishing Group

Houghton Mifflin Co.

Macmillan Publishers USA

Favorite Color

Mauve

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Cheryl Willis Hudson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Cheryl Willis Hudson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes the community of Charlottesville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her mother's family background, pt. 3

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Cheryl Willis Hudson remembers dinners with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes the African American community in Portsmouth, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes Mount Hermon Elementary School in Portsmouth, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Cheryl Willis Hudson remembers desegregation in Portsmouth, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Cheryl Willis Hudson remembers her high school science fair

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her decision to attend Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her experiences at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her experiences at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her experiences at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Cheryl Willis Hudson remembers the Civil Rights Movement in Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her mother's civic involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Cheryl Willis Hudson recalls her graduation from Oberlin College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her political and civil rights affiliations

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Cheryl Willis Hudson remembers the books she read at Oberlin College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Cheryl Willis Hudson talks about the importance of African American studies

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her role as art editor at the Houghton Mifflin Company

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Cheryl Willis Hudson recalls working as a senior designer at Macmillan Publishing Company

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Cheryl Willis Hudson talks about racial stereotyping in textbooks

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her decision to found Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Cheryl Willis Hudson recalls the publication process for the 'AFRO-BETS ABC Book'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Cheryl Willis Hudson recalls the early years of Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Cheryl Willis Hudson recalls her initial successes at Just Us Book, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Cheryl Willis Hudson reflects upon her publications at Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her community's support for Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Cheryl Willis Hudson lists Just Us Books, Inc.'s awards

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes the distribution of Just Us Books, Inc. publications

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her plans for the future of Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Cheryl Willis Hudson talks about black authors and illustrators of children's book

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Cheryl Willis Hudson reflects upon her challenges at Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Cheryl Willis Hudson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Cheryl Willis Hudson reflects upon successful children's books

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Cheryl Willis Hudson remembers children's books from her childhood

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Cheryl Willis Hudson narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$3

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Cheryl Willis Hudson recalls the early years of Just Us Books, Inc.
Cheryl Willis Hudson describes her experiences at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, pt. 2
Transcript
What made you think you could do it, if you hadn't seen it being done by another? Like, there are no one else publishing black children's books. What do you think it is that made you think that the two of you could pull it off?$$Well, I you know, I think it was gradually thing, I don't think, I, I think that once--well, once we had printed the, the 'AFRO-BETS ABC Book' [Cheryl Willis Hudson], we started getting calls for more. We had to print more, I mean it was a flurry of activities I mean people wanted this book. Say well people of color, yeah, everybody wants this book. How many black people are there in the country, how many of them have kids that don't know their ABCs or want an alphabet book? So, I think we, we thought that there's a, a huge possibility. And then we started getting some more reinforcement from the few the people that we knew who were involved in, in publishing. We met with [HistoryMaker] Marie Brown who was our agent for a while. And she said, "Oh this is fantastic, this is, this is wonderful." We met with someone, she had worked with who is deceased now, Glenn Thompson, who had also started a publishing company, around that same time, Black Butterfly press [Black Butterfly Children's Books]. And he thought we were crazy, he said, "This is beautiful but how can you make any money," you know, but we got some reinforcement from people in the industry, and just started studying it a lot more systematically.$$What would Marie Brown, what could Marie Brown do for you, the agent? Why would you need an agent, if you're a publisher?$$Well, because we weren't a publisher at the time that we first knew Marie (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay.$$We, we were looking to her, to say, "Well Marie here's some other ideas that we have, can you place them with publisher?" And she was one of the few black agents at that time, in, in New York [New York]. And she had all of the contacts too, of, of knowing people at Doubleday [Doubleday and Company Inc.; Knopf Doubleday Publishing Company] and all the other publishing houses. But, again when you're dealing with institutions who have not been doing this, they've not had a, a, a series of black characters, maybe there's one book with one black child in it. And if there's some resistance, like there's no market for it. Why would be there be any incentive for a Random House [Random House Inc.; Penguin Random House] or anybody else to buy our book, if they don't think there's a market for it anyway. So, part of it is kind of informing the industry that there, yes there is a market for these books. But, in the meantime I can't wait for you to decide to make up your mind for somebody, for us to convince you of it. We sort of had to prove that the market was there and I think we did that, by getting so much positive feedback on both the 'AFRO-BETS ABC Book,' '123 Book' ['AFRO-BETS 123 Book,' Cheryl Willis Hudson], but also particularly Wade's [HistoryMaker Wade Hudson] book with Valerie [Valerie Wilson Wesley], 'Book of Black Heroes from A to Z' ['Book of Black Heroes from A to Z: An Introduction to Important Black Achievers for Young Readers,' Wade Hudson and Valerie Wilson Wesley], which as a, a another again a different kind of book. Not a book just on George Washington Carver, but a book of black heroes. And we didn't call them, here's a biography of the African Americans, there's a difference between that and saying book of black heroes, because these people were heroes to us. So, their perspective was a little bit different. And so, the, they're subtleties that you will find in the difference in approach to, to publishing that we took verses maybe a more commercial publisher.$And you're just gonna wrap up that summer experience?$$The summer experience at Exeter [Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire] was wonderful. I was, I had been away from home before. I had gone to Howard [Howard University, Washington, D.C.] one summer. I had gone to Norfolk State [Norfolk Branch, Virginia State College; Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia] one summer. But, this was different because this was New Hampshire. It was New England, I was living in a, a dormitory with other white kids. Kids who really were a, a lot of them were from a different social class, an upper class kids. There were a few black students on campus during the summer. But, again it, it was a mutual- mutually beneficial kind of experience because I think on, on a social level if you get to know someone by living with them, by talking with them, by having meals together. You have a different perception of, of them rather than just seeing somebody on, the news, so you recognize one another as, as individuals, as, as human beings rather than as a white person or a black person, or somebody who's integrating a situation in a social context. I really enjoyed it (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So, that was nineteen--$$That was 1966.$$The summer--

Wade Hudson

Children’s book publisher and author Wade Hudson, Jr. was born on October 23, 1946 in Mansfield, Louisiana, the first of eight children to Wade and Lurline Hudson. Hudson grew up in Mansfield and attended Desoto High School, graduating in 1964. He went on to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s. Hudson worked for several civil rights organizations in the South and was one of the “Baton Rogue Three,” three African American men falsely arrested because of their involvement with civil rights activities. He has also worked as a newspaper reporter, a public relations specialist and served as executive director of Pure Energy Music Publishing, a music publishing company he owned with his brothers. The company gave Madonna the hit song, “Holiday.” Hudson earned a certificate from the Channel 13 film and television program in New York City in 1975. The program was established to provide opportunities for minorities in the film and television industry. Hudson is also an established playwright, having authored a number of plays that have been performed on the professional stage. They include Sam Carter Belongs Here, A House Divided and A Black Love Story.

Hudson met his wife, Cheryl Willis Hudson, in 1971, while visiting Boston, Massachusetts. The couple was married in 1972 in Portsmouth, Virginia, Cheryl Hudson’s hometown. They gave birth to their first child, Katura in 1976. Unable to find African American art to adorn their daughter’s nursery, Mrs. Hudson decided to create her own designs. Ultimately, she was inspired to create a children’s book, and although she and Hudson attempted to shop it around to various publishing companies, they were unsuccessful. In 1982, the couple’s second child, Stephan J. Hudson, was born, and three years later, the Hudson’s again revived their idea of creating African American children’s art.

In 1985, the Hudsons developed the AFRO-BETS kids, black characters who twist themselves into the shape of the alphabet. Two years later, after further rejections from various publishers, they invested $7,000 and self-published AFRO-BETS ABC, which featured the AFRO-BETS Kids. The couple received attention from leading education magazines and black bookstores, which carried the books. After the AFRO-BETS books sold out within three months, the Hudsons decided to establish their own publishing company, Just Us Books, Inc. It is now one of the most successful Black owned publishing companies in the world, publishing books and educational material for children focusing on black history, experiences and culture. Just Us Books, Inc. is the only Black owned publishing company that focuses exclusively on publishing Black interest books for children and young adults.

Hudson serves as president of the company, managing the business and marketing responsibilities, while Cheryl handles serves as editor. Because of Hudson’s marketing success with Just Us Books, major companies such as Harper Collins and Scholastic, Inc. hired him as a marketing consultant to boost their sales in the African American market.
In 1990, Just Us Books, Inc. introduced a bi-monthly newspaper for young people entitled Harambee, which would later win a Parent's Choice Award. The company landed its first major account, a $40,000 order with Toys 'R'Us. Throughout the 1990s, the couple continued publishing critically acclaimed children's literature, including Afro-Bets Book of Black Heroes (1989), the company’s biggest seller to date, Bright Eyes, Brown Skin (1990) and Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs and Kid Caramel, the first contemporary mystery series that would focus on young, black male characters. In 1997, Income Opportunities Magazine named Hudson and his wife, “Small Business Pioneers of the Year.” The Hudsons have received many awards for their contributions to young people, literature and to their community. In 2004, the Hudsons began the Sankofa imprint, which publishes books by outstanding African American writers and authors that are no longer in print. Books by such noted authors as James Haskins, Rosa Guy, Camille Yarbrough and Eleanora E. Tate have been republished.

Hudson is also a celebrated author. His books have been published by his own company and by publishers such as Scholastic, Abingdon Press and Children’s Press. Some of the books authored by Hudson include Powerful Words: More Than Two Hundred Years of Extraordinary Writing by African Americans, Pass It On, African American Poetry for Children, Jamal’s Busy Day and The Underground Railroad. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Stephen Crane Award for his writing, and he was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in 2004. Hudson serves on many boards, including the Langston Hughes Library at the Children’s Defense Fund and he is a Deacon at his church, Imani Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey. He lectures around the country on topics such as writing, publishing, black history and culture and black empowerment.

Wade Hudson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 28, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.173

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/28/2007

Last Name

Hudson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Desoto High School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

DeSoto Parish Training School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Wade

Birth City, State, Country

Mansfield

HM ID

HUD03

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth, Adults

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

None

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Youth, Adults

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

10/23/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

East Orange

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Fiction writer and book publishing executive Wade Hudson (1946 - ) published children's books. Hudson was the co-founder of Just Us Books, Inc. and the developer of AFRO-BETS kids books. He served as president of the company, managing the business and marketing aspects.

Employment

Just Us Books, In.

Delete

Shreveport Sun

Baton Rouge News Leader

Pure Energy Music Publishing, Inc.

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Wade Hudson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Wade Hudson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Wade Hudson describes the role of religion in the African American community

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Wade Hudson remembers his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Wade Hudson remembers the racial discrimination in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Wade Hudson describes segregation in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Wade Hudson describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Wade Hudson remembers his paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Wade Hudson describes the African American community in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Wade Hudson describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Wade Hudson remembers his neighborhood in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Wade Hudson recalls the DeSoto Parish Training School in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Wade Hudson describes the religious community in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Wade Hudson recalls his experiences on the mourner's bench

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Wade Hudson remembers his baptism

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Wade Hudson recalls serving as the assistant secretary of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Mansfield, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Wade Hudson remembers his aspiration to play professional baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Wade Hudson describes his early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Wade Hudson talks about his early interest in writing

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Wade Hudson recalls his decision to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Wade Hudson describes his aspirations while at Southern University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Wade Hudson recalls registering voters in Mississippi and Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Wade Hudson recalls his parents' opinions of his civil rights activities

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Wade Hudson recalls changing his political views while in college

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Wade Hudson describes the marches on the Louisiana State Capitol by students at Southern University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Wade Hudson recalls the protests on campus at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Wade Hudson describes his arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Wade Hudson describes his arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Wade Hudson Wade Hudson describes his arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, pt. 3

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Wade Hudson remembers being drafted into the Vietnam War

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Wade Hudson recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Wade Hudson describes his career as a newspaper columnist

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Wade Hudson describes his activities in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Wade Hudson remembers founding Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Wade Hudson reflects upon his challenges and successes at Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Wade Hudson lists his siblings

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Wade Hudson remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Wade Hudson talks about Pure Energy Music Publishing, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Wade Hudson reflects upon the role of African American publishers

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Wade Hudson describes his collaboration with Scholastic Corporation

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Wade Hudson describes his role at Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Wade Hudson describes the strengths of small publishing companies

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Wade Hudson talks about his religious involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Wade Hudson reflects upon his awards and honors

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Wade Hudson reflects upon the readership of Just Us Books, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Wade Hudson describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Wade Hudson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$1

DAStory

5$5

DATitle
Wade Hudson remembers founding Just Us Books, Inc.
Wade Hudson remembers the racial discrimination in Mansfield, Louisiana
Transcript
(Simultaneous) But when you became a couple you started to collaborate, I think, about ideas for books? How did that come about?$$You know, actually our relationship, the, the write- the book thing for children didn't really happen until '70s [1970s]--'87 [1987], '88 [1988]. My playwriting career really started to take off when we came from Boston [Massachusetts], well, let me back up. While we were living in Boston, I applied for a program that Channel 13 [WNET-TV, New York, New York] had to get more minorities in film and television and I was accepted. So that's why we moved from Boston to this area and we, rather than live in New York [New York] we moved to New Jersey 'cause it was cheaper and, and Cheryl [HistoryMaker Cheryl Willis Hudson] had a cousin who helped us find an apartment here. And so that program lasted for a year and so we just, just stayed here. Now, during that, that time, I became involved with a theater group here in, in Newark [New Jersey] called the Theater of Universal Images. And I had probably five plays over, over some years that were produced by that theater company. And, and Cheryl, actually, you know, did some of the, the advertising, illustrations, and things like that for, for, for the plays, playbills and things like that. So we still collaborated but it wasn't for children's books. Now, my first, first children's book was a book called 'Beebe's Lonely Saturday' [Wade Hudson] and it was published by New Dimension press out of New York, it's no longer in business. And it was, and I did another one to, what was that other one called? I did two books for that company. And it was mostly for the educational market. And so all these things were happening before we even decided to launch our own publishing company which happened in, actually we formed the company in '88 [1988] but we had started producing books and T-shirts and posters.$$What made you go from playwriting to producing books, T-shirts, and posters?$$Well, actually, Cheryl had an idea for a group of characters.$$Well, your daughter is born and, and that has something to do with it; right?$$That, that did but, but--$$This is before she's born?$$Yeah, but what I'm saying is like Cheryl had a idea and I think the idea that Cheryl had was a, a result of her and I, and myself too, not finding books and images for Katura [Katura J. Hudson] that reflect our environment, our culture. So I think that, and she can probably speak to that, but I think that led her to creating a group of characters she called the 'AFRO-BETS' kids. But they were, she had a character for each alphabet, so (laughter) as a playwright I'm saying well, you really can't, can't handle that many characters, you know. So we, we ended up narrowing the characters down to, to six characters and we gave them, you know, names and, you know, personalities and blah, blah, blah. And we started doing T-shirts with the characters and then the 'AFRO-BETS ABC Book' [Cheryl Willis Hudson] was our first venture, book that Cheryl wrote. And that book really took off and we did some really good marketing and publicity behind it and we printed five thousand copies which was a pretty good printing for a, for a couple that doesn't know what they're doing (laughter). And, and we sold those five thousand copies in about three months, three or four months, you know, and then we did a rush back to, to do another five thousand printing. And then so we ended up starting the company, Just Us Books [Just Us Books, Inc.], because we recognized that we were on to something and that's how Just Us Books started. And then we followed the 'ABC Book' with the counting book, the 'AFRO-BETS 123 Book' [Cheryl Willis Hudson]. And then the third book we did was a book that I and Valerie Wilson Wesley wrote together called, the AFRO-BETS' 'Book of Black Heroes' ['Book of Black Heroes from A to Z: An Introduction to Important Black Achievers for Young Readers,' Wade Hudson and Valerie Wilson Wesley], where we featured blacks who had made significant contributions to society. And we would present it alphabetically, you know, Muhammad Ali, you know, with A. And so that's how we, we, we launched the, the, the company.$How did your [maternal] grandfather [Theodore Jones] deal with racism that existed in Mansfield [Louisiana]?$$You know, very seldom did they talk about it, you know. It was, I think that they recognized it was the way it was, you know, and, and I don't remember, I mean, very few people as I can recall when I was growing up, really dealt with racism. I mean, in terms of talking about it and, or talking about white folks. I mean, it, you know, generally they would say, you know, white people are crazy just like, you know, white people will say, those folks are crazy. But in terms of dealing with it in any, any systemic way or even expressing how they really felt, I don't recall that really happening. It was, people talked about what was happening in other places but not in, in Mansfield. I, I think you have to understand because it was such a, it's such a small area and almost provincial, you know, that most black people knew most white people and most white people knew most black people. And, and so there was like this, this relationship, you know, that's written about, you know, obviously been written about by, by many black writers, where folks had sort of learned to accept the status quo and, you know, you didn't really talk about it. And, and I don't recall other than a few situations where white people in Mansfield really said any negative things to us. But the system itself, you know, which was, was in place, so, you really didn't have to.$$Did your parents [Lurline Jones Hudson and Wade Hudson, Sr.] or grandparents ever get the opportunity in those days to vote?$$No, no.$$Did they ever talk about it?$$No, nope. I don't even think they even had any expectations of voting. Mansfield, blacks started to vote in Mansfield, if I remember, I wanna make sure I get the, the year correct, either '68 [1968] or '69 [1969]. And that happened, 'cause when I was in college [Southern University; Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana] I, I joined a number of civil rights organizations including SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference]. And so we, you know, I said listen, you know, we need to go to my hometown of Mansfield because see the thing about the civil rights struggle that most people don't really understand, that it had to be fought almost like a war, you had to go to different cities and towns and actually confront the power structure in those towns to change things. I mean, what, the laws were passed but it wasn't this, you know, a, a magic wand and say, okay, everything is all right, you had to go to different towns and fight the power structure. And even today if you go to some of these small towns in Mississippi and Alabama, many of them are like they were thirty, forty, fifty years ago, you know, because nobody has gone there to really confront the, the power structure to get that, to get it to change. So, you know, it, Mansfield was, you know, it was an extremely, extremely segregated place. And I think that the system was so successfully put in place that blacks didn't even contest.