I realized this week that it has been three decades since my first publication. I am feeling particularly thankful to mark this anniversary. It has not always been easy but I am happy that I am still at it.
For all these years and more, I have been committed to telling the story of people of African descent in the context of world history. The purpose has always been to unearth untold stories or to tell familiar stories from multiple perspectives. After all this time, I am still a believer that for people of African descent, knowledge of their history is connected to the cause of liberation. By the same token, the more that all know this history, the more we may understand and appreciate our intertwined past and present. Finally, the power of even one voice to make a difference has been a constant inspiration.
So today, I am celebrating the 30th year since I first wrote, You can Make a Difference: The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., a little book that was part of the Choose Your Own Adventure series for young readers. I am particularly thankful to James Burgess who was my art teacher at St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s High School. James Burgess introduced me to Edward Packard, the creator of the children’s series, who in turn gave me a chance to submit a book proposal to what was then Bantam/Doubleday Publishers.
The rest is history.
When the proposal was accepted, I spent the next year and a half avidly researching the life of Dr. King. I went to the King Center in Atlanta; I toured his home and his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church. I combed through archives; I spoke with some of his close associates and with King scholars like Professor Clayborne Carson. I was fresh out of college and did not yet know I wanted to be a historian or a scholar/activist, yet I was taking steps in that direction. All I knew is that this seemed to be the opportunity of a lifetime to write about one of my favorite people. I felt then as I feel now that King’ss sacrifices made my life possible.
Ultimately, his legacy propelled me into the life I have today. These days, I write mostly adult nonfiction—history books and newspaper or magazine articles with a strong historical bent yet I remain committed to the same purpose.
Thirty years from now, if I am blessed with good fortune, I hope I am still at it bearing the message of my first effort: You can make a difference.
Anne C. Bailey, author of The Weeping Time and contributor to The 1619 Project.