New memoir from founder of historic D.C. mansion and museum shares unheard stories about Rosa Parks

Legendary publisher R.H. Boyd to release book of life lessons from a civil rights icon

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – On August 31, 1994, H.H. Leonards received a call from Brother Willis Edwards of the Beverly Hills NAACP. “Could Mrs. Parks please stay in your hotel until she’s healed emotionally and physically?” Rosa Parks had recently been attacked in her Detroit home—and upon her release from the hospital, she could not safely return to the site of the assault. Despite her legendary status as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, she was not wealthy and she needed refuge. This is how their friendship began.

On June 19, 2022, legendary publisher R.H. Boyd will release “Rosa Parks Beyond the Bus: Life, Lessons, and Leadership” – a heartfelt collection of wisdom truths and anecdotes gleaned from author H.H. Leonards’ friendship with Mrs. Parks that began with her stay at Leonards’ iconic Mansion on O Street in Washington, D.C.

“These vignettes and the gems of wisdom she deposited in the author offer us a deeply personal look into the heart of such a powerful, yet humble spirit,” said Dr. LaDonna Boyd, president and CEO of R.H. Boyd Publishing.

R.H. Boyd, now in its fifth generation of leadership and celebrating 125 years of printing and publishing, was founded by formerly enslaved Dr. Richard Henry Boyd. The Nashville-based enterprise is expanding beyond its curriculum offerings to include book publishing. The company’s progress under Dr. Boyd’s leadership has been featured in outlets including the Tennessean and The Voice Nashville.

“Rosa Parks Beyond the Bus: Life, Lessons, and Leadership”
H.H. Leonards | June 19, 2022 | R.H. Boyd Publishing
Nonfiction / Memoir

About the Author

H.H. Leonards is the founder and chair of the O Street Museum Foundation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and the Mansion on O Street, where Mrs. Rosa Parks called her home-away-from-home for the last decade of her life. Leonards is a wife, mother of three, and friend to celebrities and everyday people alike. The Purdue University alumna established The Mansion in 1980 to provide a unique and eclectic forum where clients learn from one another and foster the development of diversity, the creative process and the human spirit.

In an interview, H.H. Leonards can discuss:

  • The fateful call and earnest request that resulted in Rosa Parks staying at her home in Washington, D.C.
  • Her 10-year friendship with the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement and the life lessons they learned from each other
  • Learning from and finding common ground with Mrs. Parks, who on the surface was very different (Parks was an elderly, Black civil rights leader, while Leonards was a young white woman at the start of their friendship) and their mutual emphasis on faith and family
  • Her partnership with R.H. Boyd Publishing and their shared goal to elevate and share unheard stories

An Interview with H.H. Leonards

This might seem like a simple question, but given the length of your friendship it seems worth asking: what do you miss most about your friend, Rosa Parks?

She is still with me. Every day, every second. There is not a moment that goes by that I do not feel her presence.

What do I miss the most? I miss holding hands with Mrs. Parks. Her hands were creator’s hands. We held hands a lot. She and I would sit silently and enjoy the moment together, without words. What I learned from these precious moments is that the beauty of great friends is that you can be quiet in their presence. I also learned that great moments, and great memories, can be channeled through a simple thing like holding hands.

I learn each time I go back to that image of us holding hands. I think about how much she channeled through her hands, straight into my thoughts and heart.

When I am most troubled or being confronted by angry people, I close my eyes and remember those moments together.

Every time I think about Mrs. Parks and I being together, I remember how strong she was, and how she was able to express herself through her hands. She often said that we became good friends because she had never met anyone else with hands like hers. I hope that as I get older my hands grow into hers.

Your book shares stories we often don’t hear about Rosa Parks — why do you think it’s important to share stories about her, specifically stories that go “beyond the bus?”

Her time is now, more than ever. The lessons she taught are more important to absorb than ever.

  • “Keep it simple.”
  • “Measure your words with grace.”
  • “Live an exemplary life” (so no one can use the past against you).
  • “Love is all that matters.”
  • “Economic freedom ends racism.”
  • “Education is the path to a better life. But education takes on different forms for different people.”
  • “Measure your words through faith.”

How did your partnership with R.H. Boyd Publishing begin? Why did you choose to work with them to release this book?

Once I learned about the company and its rich legacy, it was the only place I looked at to publish this book. R.H. Boyd is mission driven and faith based. It is run by a woman and is a proud family business, and the oldest existing African-American publisher in the country. R.H. Boyd is a trailblazer, much like Mrs. Parks. I was just interviewed by CNBC and told them the same.

You mentioned that when you first met Rosa Parks, you didn’t know she was a civil rights icon. Do you think this would have made a difference in your relationship?

Absolutely! I would have been afraid of her. I would have kept my distance, thinking she was too important for me to talk with. God works in mysterious ways.

How did you eventually come to realize who she was? Did it change anything about your relationship?

One of our guests at the Mansion on O Street told me what she had done, not her friends or staff. I was very embarrassed. It took me a while to get up the nerve to tell her how sorry I was. What she said in response was glorious: “Now you can travel with me!” And so our journey together expanded beyond the safety of the Mansion and O Museum.

About the Publisher

As president and CEO of R.H. Boyd Publishing, Dr. LaDonna Boyd is shaping and leading R.H. Boyd’s efforts to broaden its scope and offerings for modern needs. With a targeted focus on product development, technology, commercial (non-religious) printing opportunities and author resources, Dr. Boyd has been preparing for a number of years to take the reins as a CEO—cultivating a wide range of skills necessary to lead the R. H. Boyd through a new generation.

Dr. Boyd completed her doctoral studies at Pepperdine University, where she received the Doctor of Education degree in Organizational Leadership. She is also a graduate of Spelman College, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics, and Tennessee State University, where she completed a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Finance. She is committed to continued professional development, including earning a certificate in Digital Marketing Strategy from Harvard University’s Extension School. Dr. Boyd has traveled extensively around the globe and earned recognition for community engagement and service, and she is a proud, active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She also serves on various boards, including Citizens Bank, the National Museum of African American Music, the Nashville Ballet, and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

In an interview, Dr. LaDonna Boyd can discuss:

  • The importance of elevating Black voices and preserving Black stories, and honoring the integral role of Black ancestors who built the country with their strength and perseverance
  • The company’s long-term vision and its position to help alleviate social concerns and injustices, and their expansion efforts under Dr. Boyd’s leadership
  • The importance of filling in the gaps in Rosa Parks’ story that are missing from popular narratives and history books
  • Her experience running one of the oldest publishing companies in the U.S.

An Interview with Dr. LaDonna Boyd

R.H. Boyd Publishing is celebrating 125 years in the publishing world. What does it mean to carry on this meaningful legacy?

There are not many businesses that make it for five generations within the same family. We have been fortunate to have this level of success, and I believe that it comes from being mission oriented. We focus on the importance of telling stories. Even though there are constant changes in mediums and technology, adaptability and consistency are key. We represent what it means to create generational legacy and wealth, and I hope that our story can be an example to other families and entrepreneurs.

How did you prepare to take the reins as the fifth-generation leader of R.H. Boyd?

I was fortunate enough to work with my father for many years before his retirement to receive on-the-job training and industry connections. Additionally, I have excelled in academic programs focused on economics, finance, and leadership, as well as possess impeccable grammar and writing skills, which are very important in the publishing world.

Additionally, our company has a strong team that takes pride in their work individually and collectively. Without the entire organization working cohesively, we would not be able to carry on the legacy accordingly.

Tell us how “Rosa Parks Beyond the Bus: Life, Lessons, and Leadership” came together. What intrigued you about this book?

This is such an interesting story at a very relevant and troubling time in history. Most of us are very familiar with the instance of Mrs. Parks not giving up her seat, but most are not familiar with how that impacted her journey for the rest of her life. Getting this type of first-hand experience from someone that had a close bond with her later in life, we can glean from her wisdom and ensure that her legacy lives on for future generations.

What important changes and trends are you seeing in the book industry right now, and how is R.H. Boyd Publishing adapting to these developments?

Technology is ever-changing, and the way that people consume content is constantly evolving. We must stay on top of different ways to deliver content and make sure that we are telling stories that consumers find interesting. We want to be able to impact people’s lives for the better, preferably on a consistent basis.

Additionally, with supply chain issues and environmental considerations, we reduce our waste and carbon footprint as much as possible. We also forecast production needs and secure enough inventory for at least a year to maintain workflow. Many companies in our industry are experiencing paper shortages, etc. We have been fortunate to not have many of those concerns (at least not in a disruptive manner), and I am confident in our ability to stay ahead in these areas.

What’s next for R.H. Boyd?

We have several new titles coming out within the next year. We are also launching multimedia platforms, including a podcast, enhancing our YouTube offerings, and hosting in-person events, such as our leadership training conference, the Vision Conference, June 16-18, 2022, in Nashville, TN.

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