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Explore America’s Black-Owned Bookstores

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 Black Lives Matter movement certainly deserves credit for the boom.

The collective epiphany happening in America has birthed a new audience searching for “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 in realtime dialogue on Black social and political issues. People want to read African-American authors, past and present, and they want to support Black businesses.

Many of the Black-owned book stores’ first-time customers are travelers. So as TravelCoterie continues to highlight Black-owned businesses throughout the United States, we thought we would direct you all to some of these bookstores.

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
(510) 652-2344

Wild Fig Books and Coffee – Lexington

Wild Fig Books and Coffee was founded by Kentucky writer Crystal Wilkinson and her partner Ronald Davis in Lexington. Although the ownership has changed, it remains the only black-owned bookstore in Kentucky. It is now described as a “sacred space” that “carries a legacy of an inclusive, grounding space where community members find their voice and collective vision.” Wild Fig Books and Coffee offers customers “co-working space to food specials, open mic nights, poetry readings, Drag Queen Storytimes, small concerts, and, of course, books!”

726 N Limestone,
Lexington, KY 40508
859-381-8802

 

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Esowon Books – Los Angeles

EsoWon Books owner James Fugate, left, celebrates Barak Obama’s presidential win with fellow Leimert Park business owner Mary Kimbrough at his store on Degnan on WEDNESDAY, November 05, 2008. (Photo by Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Esowon Books has been welcoming Black 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 the 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
(323) 290-1048

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
(215) 403-7058

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. “Black people need to read more so that we can establish our cultural identities. We hold ourselves in low esteem due to the brainwashing process of our slavemasters through their educational system. We are the only people on the face of the earth who allow our oppressors to educate our children. If we change our image of self then we can alter our condition and thereby gain power and respect. Therefore it is imperative for us to read, study, and manifest,” Hakim said of his intent in opening the shop.

210 S 52nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19139-4002
(215) 474-9495

MahoganyBooks – DCBlack-owned bookstores

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 our nation’s capital in 2017.

Anacostia Arts Center
1231 Good Hope Rd
SE Washington DC 20020
(202) 844-2062

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
(513) 641-2700

Semicolon Bookstore – Chicago Black-owned bookstores

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
(312) 877-5170

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

Harriett’s Bookshop – Philadelphia

Twitter: @harriettsbooks

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 hereJeannine A. Cook

258 E. Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19125

If we’re missing a location, drop us an email or comment on our social and we’ll add it.

 

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