15 Independent Black-Owned Bookstores Reclaiming Their Shelves And Community
Black-Owned Bookstores Are Making A Major Comeback In These Major Cities.
May 01, 2019 at 8:43 pm
Over 200 Black-owned bookstores have closed nationwide since 2002, according to a national survey conducted by Troy Johnson of the African American Literature Book Club. Since 2018, Johnson estimates at least 108 Black-owned bookstores have made a substantial comeback. Currently, efforts to promote Black literature within Black communities is rising throughout the US, making it possible for independent Black bookshops to rediscover their niche — all while reclaiming their space.
Here is a list of 15 bookshops to grab a good book and support a Black-owned business.
1. Nubian Bookstore in Morrow, GA
Located just minutes off Interstate 75 in Morrow, GA, Nubian Bookstore brings one-of-a-kind literature that is hard to find anywhere else. Owner and operator Marcus Williams is credited for having the go-to spot for journals, greek paraphernalia, DVDs, greeting cards and let’s not forget — books! If you’re passing through the metro Atlanta area, make sure to stop by!
2. Medu Bookstore in Atlanta, GA
Serving the Atlanta area for over 20 years, Medu Bookstore is located in Greenbriar Mall and specializes in culturally significant books specifically written, published and distributed for the purpose of enhancing Black readership.
3. The Listening Tree in Decatur, GA
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Watcha doing today? Stop by The Listening Tree and shop our new books! We're open from 12-5 ???? 2308 Candler Rd. Decatur, GA 30032. #responsiblerepresentation #thelisteningtree #thefuturelooksbright #childrensbookstore #childrensbooks #atlanta #decatur #meettheauthor #stem #youngentreprenuersprogram ##bboysandbgirlsbookclub #investinginouryouth #investinginourcommunity #blackauthorship #blackauthorsmatter #ourstoriesmatter #instabook #bookstagram #comeseeus #wereopen #welovebooks #booksforbedtime #greatreads
Owned by Omar and Kimberly Finley, The Listening Tree is a bookstore that has become a staple of the local Decatur, GA, area. In addition to selling books, the store gives back to its local community by also fostering a young entrepreneurs program for kids ages eight to 16.
4. Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in Germantown, PA
Nestled in the heart of Germantown, PA, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books is CNN contributor and BET News host Marc Lamont Hill’s brain child. Serving up lattes, espresso shots and various teas, the shop is a tribute to Hill’s real-life Uncle Bobbie, who helped Hill develop his love for the written word. Hill hopes his new store will motivate the same love of books, learning and dialogue in the community, just as his family instilled in him.
5. Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe in Highland Park, MI
Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe is a small gem in the middle of Highland Park, MI, which offers free Wi-Fi, occasional live music and island dishes to patrons and readers. Its mission is to bring history and culture back to their community.
6. The Underground Bookstore in Chicago, IL
The Underground Bookstore is a Chicago-based shop, where book lovers can grab a good read written by a Black author.. Their motto is, “If you want it, we have it!”
7. Marcus Bookstore in Oakland, CA
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Have to give much respect to the nation's oldest black owned book store. Makes sense that it would be born in California lol. Marcus books in San Francisco's historically black Fillmore area. The bookstore has been operating since 1960. Their original building saw the likes of James Baldwin, Rosa parks, Malcolm x, Duke Ellington, and Toni Morrison. My goal is to add on to the great history of the black owned bookstore, have to give respect to the ones that built before us. #BlackBookClub #OurHistory #marcusbookstore
Established in the 1960s, Marcus Bookstore is known for being the oldest, independent, Black-owned bookshop in the country. Nestled in Oakland, CA, it offers art, history and books galore to the district and surrounding cities.
8. Underground Books in Sacramento, CA
Not to be confused with the Underground Bookstore in Chicago, Underground Books of Sacramento, CA, is named after the historical Underground Railroad. Operating under the motto “find your freedom,” the nonprofit bookshop is part of St. HOPE, an organization with a mission to “revitalize Oak Park through Public Education and Economic Development.” Managed by Georgia “Mother Rose” West, the shop has graciously become a well-known literary one-stop shop in the Oak Park community, hosting everything from local and national book signings, lectures, poetry events, children's storytimes and more.
9. Between The Lines Bookstore in Baton Rouge, LA
Owned and operated by military veterans, Between The Lines Bookstore is located in Baton Rouge, LA. The bookstore provides connections between authors and various book clubs around the community, in hopes of promoting the significance of reading and serving.
10. Everyone’s Place In Baltimore, MD
Everyone's Place stays true to its name. Based in Baltimore, the space doubles as a boutique, study and bookstore. It’s a hip spot that welcomes people of all ages and learning backgrounds, from pre-K to PhD candidates.
11. MahoganyBooks in Washington D.C.
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Thank you @thespectrumcircle for recognizing the work we do at MahoganyBooks. There is nothing more rewarding and satisfying than working everyday to bring light to your culture, your community and beyond. We are honored. Thank you Karen @advertisingdiva for the vision to celebrate innovation and women. . . . #mahoganybooks #blackbooksmatter #DerrickandRamunda #husbandandwifeteam #SpectrumCircleAwards #marriedlife #KarenMariaAlston #MahoganyBooksCoFounders #teamwin #blackowned #DerrickAYoung
After starting their online bookstore 12 years ago, MahoganyBooks opened its physical doors in the historic Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC. Owners Derrick and Ramunda Young aim to make books more accessible to Black children throughout the country, while also cultivating books by Black authors and emphasizing Black culture. Ramunda noted that the store’s authentic energy and genuine love for books and Black culture sets them apart from larger stores in the area.
“Here, our customers tap into the culture, have open conversations and feel at ease,” Ramunda told Blavity.
In addition, MahoganyBooks offers Ujima Thursdays, book signings and author readings — just to name a few activities.
12. Sankofa Video and Books Cafe in Washington D.C.
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Sometimes you have to restore yourself. Your balance. Your intention. Today, I did that. And I feel like hope and joy and sunshine. A nourishing afternoon in DC at Sankofa Books and Cafe with some of my favorite people. My ace Tilane Jones. The phenom Jason Moran. And the master and legend Haile Gerima! I feel stronger. xo
Named after the critically acclaimed film Sankofa, Sankofa Video and Books Cafe lies in the middle of Washington, DC, across from Howard University. It is known for being a safe space for students and residents, gifting history filled documentaries and providing Black texts. The cafe offers a variety of breakfast and lunch options, making Sankofa a perfect dine-and-read experience.
13. The Lit Bar in Bronx, NY
After witnessing the gentrification of her Bronx, NY, neighborhood, owner of The Lit Bar Nöelle Santos opened her store in an effort to reclaim the neighborhood and its history. The Lit Bar’s objective is to create a haven that inspires reading and positive social interactions while highlighting the unique voices within the Bronx.
“It’s quite a revolution for black folks to open up a bookstore and to provide these books that are about African-American culture,” Santos said in an interview with Publisher Weekly.
14. Pyramid Books in Boynton, FL
Pyramid Books of Boynton Beach, FL, opened in June 1993, and celebrates Black History Month all year 'round. The book hub uses its voice to educate all people about the African diaspora. They sponsor book fairs and conferences in their community, standing for all the possibilities of Black culture in the book industry..
15. Frugal Bookstore in Boston, MA
The only bookstore planted the lively Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Frugal Bookstore owners Clarrissa and Leonard Egerton uplift the youth in their community one book at a time. With an array of workshops, live performances, activities for kids and book discussions, this shop is a one-of-a-kind jewel.
These are just a few Black-owned bookstores that are making a major come back. Every owner has a unique relationship with books and their community. If you're in these amazing cities make sure to stop by and support Black businesses. Grab a book, kick your feet up and enjoy!
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