Writing this book has been a delightful, challenging, and very rewarding journey. At times I’ve felt like the ancient king from Mali, Abubakari II, planning and organizing and setting sail on a fantastic expedition to explore new discoveries across the sea. Unlike this wealthy king who sailed away from his glorious homeland, however, my journey led me back to Africa to where this story, the story of America’s Black Founders, truly began.
There are so many key people who have helped and inspired me along my quest. Side-by-side, my husband Jeff, has shared the delightful joys of discovery for each new treasure I found along the way. From the time the seed was first planted a couple years ago in my heart to write this book and tell the story about Richard Allen and the Black Founding Fathers and Mothers, Jeff has listened to my dreams and schemes, and encouraged me each step of the way. And thank you, Dan and Ben, for all your support, too. You guys are the best!
And so the seed sprouted and grew tall enough for others to see. I want to thank Cynthia Sherry, Jerome Pohlen, Mary Kravenas, and all the wonderful and hard-working people at Chicago Review Press. You caught the vision and made the decision to make the dream become a reality.
Thus the expedition set sail. Little did I expect the countless number of people who would be willing to join the journey and give generously of their own talents, time, and treasures to help make this book a success to reach the hands and hearts of its readers. Bishop Jeffrey N. Leath, former pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, without your kind help and generous spirit, this book wouldn’t be what it is today. Thank you for your tireless efforts, generous spirit, and numerous photographs that are used in the book. Thank you as well to Dolores Lyons, long-time member of Mother Bethel. Ms. Lyons, your patient help, efficient thoroughness, and welcome friendship made my journey a joy. And I also want to give a heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful members of Bethel who show their support and treasure the legacy of Richard Allen and the monumental history involved.
Thank you to the many men and women working at historical societies and archives who searched for dusty paper records and nearly forgotten images to contribute to these pages. Your invaluable help has brought these images and words back to life so that their legacy and testimony will live on to influence a new generation of freedom builders.
Thank you, E.B. Lewis, for stepping up to the plate with such enthusiasm to get the much-needed photographs for the book’s cover. It’s great to have you on board with another one of my books!
A heartfelt thanks goes to my sister and brother-in-law, Laura and Mike Jackson, for the precious photograph of the historic A.M.E. church in our hometown of Everett, PA, along with the active church in nearby Bedford. Thank you to the many photographers from Flickr.com who have shared so graciously of their talents and resources. And a special thanks to artist David Wagner whose art truly conveys the strong sense of pride, patriotism, and heroism our Black Founders were known for. Your generous spirit and helpful heart inspired me in more ways than you’ll ever know.
A special thank you goes to all the historians whose intense research and accurate facts help make it possible for me to share African American history with kids. Your books line my bookshelves and are friendly faces that greet me each day I sit down in my office to write. Among the many historians whose outstanding work I constantly refer to, I would especially like to express my appreciation to Carter Woodson, Charles W. Wesley, Benjamin Quarles, W.E.B. Du Bois, Lerone Bennett Jr., Darlene Clark Hine, Jessie Carney Smith, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
So now we have landed. The book is written. Our expedition is a success. But the journey is beginning anew. There are new pages of history to write. There are new discoveries to be made. My hope is that through the pages of this book, both children and adults alike will be inspired to pick up the torch and make a stand for freedom.