Rita is the beloved author of the works African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes, The Oldest Student, and Hammering for Freedom: The Story of William Lewis, and she uses her gift of writing to inspire and educate others.
For Rita, stories are everywhere, and she has always known that she wanted to these stories. She has written many books, for both children and adults, and she now has five trade-published educational books that are highly regarded. The Oldest Student was picked up by Penguin Random House and Hammering for Freedom won first place in Lee and Low Publishing’s New Voices Award Competition in 2012. Her novel African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes was recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution and won the East Tennessee Community History Award of Excellence.
Rita is home to Chattanooga, and when she was researching Chattanooga’s first and only African American teaching hospital, she wanted to find more information for the late pastor and philanthropist W.C. Hunter, who was refurbishing the hospital to its former glory. Diving deeper into her research, she began to uncover “a vibrant community of African American achievers”, Rita stated in her interview. When she showed Hunter the information she discovered, he told her to write a novel, and so she did.
Her intentions for the novel were to “share achievements, hopes, dreams, and advancements with today’s youth”, and this is what she wishes for each of her works to do. For African American of Chattanooga, she believed that “the biographies and achievements the pictorial history book documents, deserve a place on the bookshelves nest to other local history books”. She believes that there are many untold stories still waiting to be uncovered, and she is beginning to uncover them.
The author of children’s novels visits many classrooms as well, to speak with students and faculty, and to read to students. She has spoken with classrooms from all over the country, including Canada! Soon, she will be visiting several schools in Texas to receive the Texas Bluebonnet Award, which she is looking forward to.
Rita has several books in various stages of completion and is also working with the filmmaker, John Beder, to develop a documentary called The Civil Case, which is about four Chattanoogan African American women who were shot by white supremacist groups in the 1980s. To keep up with her important and impactful work, check out her website for more information!