R. H. Boyd Publishing Corporation, which was founded in 1896 by a survivor of slavery and a veteran of the Civil War, is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a broadened content focus and a continual mission to serve Black communities.
Robert Henry Boyd founded the National Baptist Publishing Board in order to supply Black Baptists with religious content, including hymnals, church curriculum, periodicals, and books. Today, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company is known as R. H. Boyd Publishing, and Boyd’s great-great-granddaughter, Dr. LaDonna Boyd, is still carrying out that mission. Boyd is the fifth member of the family to lead the business. As president and CEO, she is eyeing brand expansion as well as a greater number of trade books for the printing and publishing company.
“We are not moving away from anything; more so we’re adding to our offerings,” Boyd tells PW, noting she would like to publish 10-15 trade titles a year moving forward.
RHB has published hundreds of books featuring religious content and resources for church administrators, in addition to occasional titles in categories such as inspiration, history, biography, and education. Among its bestsellers is the New National Baptist Hymnal. Looking ahead, Boyd wants to publish more books across all categories. "We are open to the entire spectrum, everything from deep theological studies and pastoral resources to children's books and coloring books."
RHB employs a staff of 40 people across multiple departments, including online retail sales, in-house production and printing, editorial, and more. As the publishing output grows, Boyd expects the editorial staff to expand as well.
Among its forthcoming trade books is Rosa Parks Beyond the Bus: Life, Lessons, and Leadership by H. H. Leonards, a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropist and the founder of the Mansion on O Street—an events space dedicated to fostering diversity and creativity. Leonards was a friend of the late Rosa Parks, who stayed at Leonards’ home on O Street while recovering from an assault in 1994. Publication is timed with Juneteenth: “Her story and the idea of liberation go hand-in-hand,” Boyd says.
The book depicts little-known stories about Parks related to her faith as well as her ideas for ending racism, while correcting misperceptions about her perpetuated by the media.
“People think of her as on the bus as an elderly woman, but she was in her early 40s,” Boyd points out. “She was not physically tired, but emotionally—there’s a big difference.” Additionally, it is widely believed that Parks sat in the “whites only” part of the bus. It was actually the first row of the “colored-only” section, but the driver had moved the sign. “It represents the Black experience, where the goal post is always being moved,” Boyd says. Also revealed in the book, Parks envisioned the face of Emmett Till, who had recently been lynched, as she found the strength to say she was not moving.
Leonards is doing a book signing at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville during the week of the book launch, in addition to events at her home on O Street. Other events will be added throughout the summer.
Looking to the next 125 years of publishing at RHB, Boyd says: “We’re making sure we’re telling the full story of not only the Black experience and experiences of faith, but of culture in general—things pertaining to families, financial health, and generational wealth. We want to make sure we’re empowering and uplifting multiple communities and telling the stories that need to be told."