Black-owned bookstores are having a moment in America. As one bookstore owner tells the New York Times, “We went from moving 3,000 books a week to 50,000 books a week.”
The collective epiphany happening in the country over systemic racism and its implications on social, economical and political viability has birthed a new audience seeking resources on race relations. Millennials are discovering James Baldwin’s writings after seeing his eloquence articulated through archival footage and quotes on Instagram feeds. And modern authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates are engaged and commenting in real time on Black social and political issues.
People want to read African-American authors, past and present, and they want to support Black-owned bookstores.
Here are a few we recommend:
A List Of Black-Owned Bookstores
Marcus Books – Oakland
Named after Marcus Garvey, this cultural landmark is perhaps America’s longest continually operating Black-owned bookstore. Tuskegee University alums Drs. Raye and Julian Richardson founded the bookstore in the 1960s. Marcus Books has hosted readings or book signings with Malcolm X, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Terry McMillan, Muhammad Ali, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Chaka Khan, and Nikki Giovanni in the decades since its inception.
3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Oakland, CA 94609
Esowon Books – Los Angeles
Esowon Books has been welcoming readers and authors for three decades at its Leimert Park store. James Fugate opened the bookstore with the help of co-owner Tom Hamilton back in 1990. Their goal was to service their predominantly African-American Los Angeles neighborhood.
Barack Obama, Misty Copeland, Rodney King, Sherri Shepherd, and Spike Lee have participated in autograph signings at their store and author Ta-Nehisi Coates considers it his favorite bookstore in the country.
4327 Degnan Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Book – Philadelphia
Philly native Marc Lamont Hill owns Uncle Bobbies Coffee & Books. Philly mag describes the spot as “Part living room, part library, part coffee bar, part eatery, Uncle Bobbie’s invites patrons to stick around a while, the better to consume food for the body and the mind — and to commune with neighbors.”
Hill named the store after his Uncle Bobbie, an intellectual fond of dialogue and literature.
5445 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Hakim’s Bookstore – Philadelphia
Located in West Philadelphia, Hakim’s Bookstore has been a community fixture since the 1950s. The store specializes in African-American history and is operated by the daughters and granddaughter of the original owner, Dawud Hakim.
210 S 52nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19139-4002
MahoganyBooks – DC
Readers searching for books written “for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora” should visit SE DC’s MahoganyBooks. The store started out as a passion project for husband and wife team Derrick and Ramunda back in 2007. After a decade as a solely digital retailer, MahoganyBooks opened its first brick and mortar in the Anacostia area of the nation’s capital in 2017.
Anacostia Arts Center
1231 Good Hope Rd
SE Washington DC 20020
Smith & Hannon Bookstore – Cincinnati
This Black-owned Cincinnati bookstore opened its doors in 2003. Their mission? “Bring a real, high-quality bookstore to the Cincinnati area with a specialization in literary works from African American and local authors.”
According to Smith & Hannon’s website, “People come back … because they know they’ll find what they’re looking for on our shelves – and if they don’t, we’ll help them find it. Stop by to see for yourself!”
50 E Freedom Way
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Semicolon Bookstore – Chicago
Semicolon is Chicago’s only “black-woman owned bookstore and gallery space. Proprietor Danielle Mullens opened the shop in 2019. “I wanted literature and art to kinda collide and create this experience that would further connect the two worlds–or at least cause a lover of one to want to know more about the other,” Mullens said in a statement. The store hosts authors for readings and visual artists for monthly installations.
515 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60642
The Lit Bar – The Bronx
Once upon a time, a girl from The Bronx had big dreams of opening an independent bookstore/wine bar right here at home. It would be the only indie bookstore in the entire borough – home to 1.4 million people and 10 colleges. And it would be called The Lit Bar.
That tale’s protagonist is The Lit Bar proprietress Noëlle Santos. The Bronx native and resident saw an opportunity to serve her community with a bookstore after the local Barnes & Nobles closed in 2016.
131 Alexander Ave
The Bronx, NY 10454
What a decade 2020 has been. You held us down and now your fave BXstore is arising from the Rona on Friday, July 24th. We kindly ask you to stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, racism, or homophobia. Sincerely Yerrrs,
The BXsellers #survivalofthelittest #thelitbar pic.twitter.com/CbJvRmUI8U
— The Lit. Bar (@thelitbar) July 23, 2020
Harriett’s Bookshop – Philadelphia
Named after Harriet Tubman, this Philly bookshop’s mission is highlighting female authors, activists, and artists. Philly mag conducts a fantastic interview with the owner that you can read here. Jeannine A. Cook
258 E. Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Eric has revolved in and out of passport controls for over 20 years. From his first archaeological field school in Belize to rural villages in Ethiopia and Buddhist temples in Laos, Eric has come smile to smile with all walks of life. A writer, photographer and entrepreneur, the LA native believes the power of connectivity and community is enriched through travel.