50 In 50: Black-Owned Bookstores Across America
By Kelsey Marie
Black-owned bookstores in the U.S. went through a major decline in the past 20 years. According to Troy Johnson who runs the online book database The African American Literature Book Club, there were more than 325 black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999. By 2014, the number of black-owned bookstores declined by 83%, leaving only 54 in existence.
“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” says Johnson to Publishers Weekly.
Fortunately, the number of black-owned bookstores is growing. Although they aren’t existent in all 50 states, there is still an effort being made to shop locally at black-owned bookstores.
If your state isn’t on the list, head to www.africanbookstore.net to shop black virtually.
Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing has been opened for 30 years and is located in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ashay By The Bay is the #1 Black Children’s Bookstore located in Oakland, California. They were founded in 1997 and began selling books online in 2002.
Eso Won Books is located in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and is an independent black-owned bookstore.
They sell both indie books as well as mainstream and has monthly events.
Marcus Books Oakland is located in Oakland and has been “offering books by and about black people everywhere, since 1960.”
Smiley’s Bookstore is located in Carson, California. They’ve been open since 1993 and aim to feed children’s imaginations through books.
Underground Books is located in the Oak Park area of Sacramento. They’ve been open since the summer of 2003 and hosts book signings by both local and national authors.
West County READS Multicultural Children’s Book Store is located at The Shops at Hilltop in Richmond, California. They sell books for all ages of children about different cultures and customs.
MeJah Books & Crafts is a small bookstore located in Claymont, Delaware.
Cultured Books is located in Saint Petersburg, Florida. They are currently in a pop-up stage, so they’re only open on Sundays from 1 – 4 p.m. with intentions one day becoming a brick and mortar.
Dare Books is located in Longwood, Florida and their motto is “We Educate From The Cradle To The Grave.”
Pyramid Books has been open since 1993 and is located in Boynton Beach, Florida. This community bookstore specializes in hard-to-find books and Afrocentric literature.
The Gathering Awareness and Book Center is located in Pensacola, Florida. They specialize in books of African American history and self-awareness.
Black Dot Cultural Center and Bookstore is located in Lithonia, Georgia.
Book Boutique is located in Atlanta and has a large selection of African American literature.
Medu Bookstore is the second-largest African-American owned bookstore in Atlanta. They’ve been open since 1989 and specialize in hard-to-find books.
Nubian Bookstore is located in Morrow, Georgia and sells African-American books, DVDs, artwork, Greek paraphernalia, and greeting cards.
The Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore is located in Atlanta, Georgia.
AfriWare Books is located in Maywood, Illinois and has been open since 1992. Their mission is to provide a platform to showcase black authors.
Frontline Bookstore is located in Chicago and specializes in being a Rastafarian and pan-African book distributor. They also sell beauty and health products.
Akoma Novelties & Books is located in Evansville, Indiana. They were founded in 2015 and aim to uplift people of African descent.
The Brain Lair Bookstore is located in South Bend, Indiana. This bookstore handpicks titles that will uplift and inspire teenagers and young adults. They also have books for adults.
The Wild Fig Books and Coffee is located in the North Limestone area of Lexington, Kentucky and recently reopened as a bookstore, coffee shop and coworking space.
Between The Lines Bookstore is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They promote literacy in the African-American community as well as community book clubs.
The Community Book Center is located in New Orleans and features African -centered books, art, fabric, and gifts.
Frugal Bookstore is located in Roxbury, Massachusetts and aims for “changing minds one book at a time.”
Olive Tree Books-n-Voices is located in Springfield, Massachusetts. The bookstore is located in a building which used to be a crack house. The owner transformed the building into a place for the community to find books and read more.
Everyone’s Place Bookstore is located in Baltimore whose motto is “supporting knowledge of self from pre-K to Ph.D. and beyond.”
Wisdom Book Center is located in Gwynn Oak, Maryland. In addition to books, they sell health and beauty products, jewelry and art.
Blackstone Bookstore & Cultural Center is located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. They opened in 2013 and aim to provide bestselling and classic African American books.
Detroit Book City is a black-owned indie bookstore located in Detroit, Michigan. They carry new and gently used adult and children books.
Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe is located in Highland Park, Michigan. They’re open 7 days a week and has various classes each day such as an African dance class.
Source Booksellers is located in Detroit’s Midtown district. The books are carefully selected non-fiction works.
Eyeseeme Bookstore is located in University City, Missouri and specializes in African American children’s books.
Progressive Emporium & Education Center is located in St. Louis, Missouri. They have hundreds of books on black culture, life, education, and art.
Aframerican Book Store is located in Omaha, Nebraska and was established in 1990 with African-centered writing in mind.
lA Unique African American Books & Cultural Center is located in Camden, New Jersey and has skincare products in addition to books.
Janco Books is located in Las Vegas and sells both used and new books. There is also a cafe and insense, handmade jewelry and candles for sale.
Cafe Con Libros is located in Brooklyn, NYC and caters to women and girls who are book lovers.
Grandma’s Place in Harlem offers educational books and toys for children.
Revolution Books is located on Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem. According to their bio, they are a “bookstore that is a political, intellectual and cultural center for an actual revolution.”
Sisters Uptown Bookstore is located in Harlem. They are family-operated and serve the community through books and information.
The Lit. Bar launched in the Bronx in 2018. They are a space to have literary, art and community gatherings.
Zawadi Books has been in operation in Colombus, Ohio since 1992 and is your “one-stop-shop” with the thousands of books in their collection.
Hakim’s Bookstore is located in Philadelphia and aims to get black people to read more.
Turning Page Bookshop is a newly opened bookstore located in Goose Creek, South Carolina.
The African Place is located in Memphis and is the largest African import retailer in the South. They carry conscious books, DVDs, African clothing, artwork, jewelry, shea butter and more.
The Pan African Connection is a bookstore located in Dallas. It focuses on books from the diaspora as well as being an art gallery and resource center.
Harambee Books And Artworks is located in Old Town of Alexandria, VA and serves D.C. metropolitan area. Their aim is to achieve literacy amongst all.
Mahogany Books is located in Washington, D.C. and promotes entrepreneurship and self-esteem to the black community. Their aim is to provide books to readers who seek works from and about the African diaspora.
Sankofa Video Books & Cafe is located across from Howard University in Washington, D.C. They’ve been open since 1998 and were inspired by the movie SANKOFA.
Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.