(Delmarvanow.com) -- An author and illustrator who grew up in Accomack County beat out a handful of talented authors -- including a basketball legend -- to win the award for outstanding literary work for children at the 49th NAACP Image Awards on Sunday.
Vashti Harrison, 29, grew up in Onley, Virginia, and graduated from Nandua High School in 2006.
Her debut picture book, "Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History," came out last month. It was published by LittleBrown Books for Young Readers.
"I hope that this book can make young people aware of the many, many opportunities that are out there," Harrison said in an interview in November, adding, "That's one of the main reasons that all of the characters have the same face — because I want them to be kind of interchangeable. You can see yourself in any one of these."
Harrison, in her acceptance speech, said the book, which had its beginnings in an Instagram project she undertook last February, resulted from "all of the incredible support I've received from people all over the world over social media, and their love and support for this project."
She dedicated the award to all the black women in American history and to "the little girls."
The award was among those handed out Sunday evening in a non-televised portion of the Image Awards — other portions will air on television Monday night.
The win puts Harrison's book alongside the works of other literary winners announced Sunday, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., who won in the fiction category for his book "The Annotated African American Folktales," and Dick Gregory, who won in the nonfiction category for his book "Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies."
Along with Harrison's book, the other nominees in the children's book category were:
"Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court” — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Author), Raymond Obstfeld (With) (Hachette Book Group)
“Before She Was Harriet” — Lesa Cline-Ransome (Author), James E. Ransome (Illustrator) (Holiday House)
“Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!” — Andrea J. Loney (Author), Keith Mallett (Illustrator) (Lee & Low Books)
“The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist” — Cynthia Levinson (Author), Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrator) (S&S Children’s Publishing).
The NAACP Image Awards celebrate the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honor individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors, according to a news release.
Awards are given in 56 categories.
Harrison's book introduces young readers to 40 black women who impacted American history in fields ranging from science to politics, the arts and more.
The book is geared to readers age 8 and up, but the message it delivers is for all ages — that we should celebrate and honor these black women who helped change the world.
It features well-known icons including author Maya Angelou, abolitionist Sojourner Truth and television personality and actor Oprah Winfrey, along with less widely known figures such as pilot Bessie Coleman and filmmaker Julie Dash.