The National Writers Series Presents: An Evening With Rochelle Riley on Thursday, May 13

Every famous person, every hero, every icon throughout history was once a child. And as children, we all go through triumphs and trials that shape us into the adults we become.

Those childhood experiences are the focus of author Rochelle Riley’s new book, That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World, which we’ll discuss when she joins the National Writers Series on Thursday, May 13 at 7 p.m. ET.


What happened to make young Cassius Clay into the fighter that would one day be known as Muhammad Ali? What events put children like Frederick Douglass and Aretha Franklin and Thurgood Marshall onto the path towards greatness?


We’ll discuss all these and more, along with the book’s black-and-white photos of children dressed as these historic figures from Cristi Smith-Jones. These photos, crafted to help inspire children to see themselves as future icons, went viral on social media a few years ago.

Those photos became the inspiration for this collaboration between author and photographer that’s been called “inspiring reading at any age” by the Detroit Free Press.


If you were ever a child (and we think you probably were), you’ll want to attend this virtual event!


Riley is the Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit and spent nearly 25 years as an award-winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She is the author of four other books, including The Burden: African Americans and The Enduring Impact of Slavery.


This event takes place on Thursday, May 13 at 7 p.m. ET. Our guest host for this evening’s discussion will be Leonard Pitts Jr., a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and the author of several books including the popular novels Freeman, Before I Forget, and The Last Thing You Surrender.


Registration is open at the National Writers Series website and is free to the public (with a $10 donation encouraged). The virtual event takes place over Zoom and attendees will be sent a link at registration.


Media Contacts
Media interested in requesting a copy of the book or in scheduling an interview with Rochelle Riley are invited to connect directly with Emily Katherine Nowak at enowak@wayne.edu.

Jillian Manning

Executive Director, National Writers Series

director@nwstc.org