Anyone who has dared to reach for a far-off horizon knows what it takes.
It takes a mighty pair of hands to craft a chain, build a bridge, make a change.
It takes a mighty pair of hands to seize an opportunity.
To grab a ball and run with it.
To hold on tight as you climb toward a mountaintop that you can’t fully see.
For ten black men who changed America, every finger, palm, and fist. Every gritty, mighty, brown-skinned — sometimes calloused, other times challenged — hand worked and worked. Reaching, pulling, believing, achieving.
Holding fast to freedom.
Hand in hand!
For ten black men, ranging from Benjamin Banneker to A. Philip Randolph — whose monument greets visitors traveling through Boston’s Back Bay train station — to Barack Obama, mighty hands were what it took to hold a dream.
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America started with a plea.
“PLEASE!” said my son.
“PLEASE!” said my brother.
“PLEASE!” said the brothers — at the barbershop, the university, the basketball court, the Supreme Court, the grocery store.
“PLEASE!” said the boys on the playground, the students in the library, the devoted souls attending Sunday’s Bible study.
“PLEASE! Oh, PLEASE!”
“Make us a book that reflects the powerful, determined, articulate, smart men we are.”
So I researched and wrote — with my heart in my throat. And tried as best I could to work the soil of their stories into the souls of the pages that I prayed would illuminate the vast and unstoppable achievements of black men everywhere.
Brian Pinkney sketched and painted and used his artistic hands to render a series of exquisite portraits that cast a bold light on the beauty, the vulnerability, the searing emotional intensity of ten men whose hands built this nation.
The pleas of the boys and young men who begged for a book like Hand in Hand were a true gift. Their cry was a chance for Brian and me to use our hands to honor them.
And now, Brian and I are grateful to know that since Hand in Hand’s publication, some of these boys and young men have rallied together to create father-son book clubs and mentoring forums, blogs and literacy programs, to remind themselves, each other, and others that it takes all kinds of hands coming together to make change.
Brian Pinkney could not be here today because his hands are on their way to the Midwest to speak to students. But Brian and I wish to thank the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee for honoring Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.
And thank you to so many whose mighty hands helped build this book.
Thank you to our amazingly sure-handed editor, Stephanie Lurie, and art directors Joann Hill and Whitney Manger.
We appreciate Dina Sherman and the team of hands at Disney Publishing and Jump at the Sun for supporting this book and seeing its potential.
Thanks to our agent Rebecca Sherman at Writers House.
And finally, gratitude goes to all of you in this room who put books into the hands of young readers.
That is a mighty blessing!
To commemorate Black History Month, we are highlighting a series of articles, speeches, and reviews from The Horn Book archive that are by and/or about African American authors, illustrators, and luminaries in the field — one a day through the month of February, with a roundup on Fridays. Click the tag HBBlackHistoryMonth17 and look for #HBBlackHistoryMonth17 on Facebook.com/TheHornBook and @HornBook. You can find more resources about social justice and activism at our Talking About Race and Making a Difference resource pages.