The Top Cities for Readers of African American Literature

top cities for readers of african american literatureAALBC.com assessed the relative strengths of almost 300 American cities, to determine which ones are best able to provide an environment that is conducive to the enjoyment of African American Literature.

Our 2014 list improves on our original list, first published in 2013, by considering more factors for each city.   Some of the factors we considered and evaluated included the:

  • number of library visits per capita;
  • number of African American book clubs;
  • number of African American book stores;
  • city having a minimum population of 100,000;
  • percentage of African Americans relative to city’s overall population;
  • number of book events for African American readers;
  • number of African American owned newspapers;
  • number of websites dedicated African American books (city of the web site’s founder);
  • quality (length of visit, number of pages viewed, duration of stay) to the AALBC.com website, over the past 365 days; and
  • more.

We also took points away from cities with strong negative indicators for African American literacy as reflected on reports like, The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010.

Finally, rather than ranking these cities, as we did last year, we decided to group the cities into tiers and sort the cities alphabetically within each tier.  This article is intended to inform readers which cities are supportive of African American literature by providing the best resources for both readers and authors, and to acknowledge each city’s contribution to that effort.

Top Tier Cities

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York

These cities ranked high on almost all of the factors considered.

Atlanta, GA
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Washington, DC

Atlanta, GA is one of the top destinations for readers of African American literature. Atlanta hosts the National Book Club Conference (NBCC), the premier event for book clubs from across the nation.  Hosting the NBCC makes sense since Atlanta is one of the cities with the most Black book clubs in the U.S. Atlanta is also home to Written Magazine who hosts the popular Wine & Words® events. The city is also one of the top cities for independent Black owned bookstores in the nation;  including the cultural institution, Shrine of the Black Madonna; Medu Bookstore; and Sisters Bookshop.

Group Photograph from the 2009 NBCC Gala

Group Photograph from the 2009 National Book Club Conference Gala, held in Atlanta, GA

Los Angeles, CA is home to one of the oldest and perhaps finest remaining Black owned bookstore in America, Eso Won Books.  The city hosts a number of popular events including, the 8 year old, Leimert Park Village Book Fair and the Los Angeles Black Book Expo.   Los Angeles is another top city for socializing with other readers, as it is in the top five cities with the highest number of book clubs focused on African American literature.

While New York, NY is arguably the publishing capital of the world and home to the National Book Awards, “The City,” however, did not earn any points for those reasons. New York is home to The National Black Writer’s Conference, The Harlem Book Fair, The African American Literary Awards Show and many other events dedicated to African American literature.   The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts a variety of programs and is one of the finest Black cultural institutions in the world.  New York City is also home to Mosaic Literary Magazine and Writers’ World Newspaper, two publications dedicated Black literature.

Philadelphia, PA is one of the cities with the most number of Black owned book stores including Black and Nobel, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop, and Horizon Books Inc.  The city’s Black owned newspaper, the Philadelphia Tribune, was founded over 130 years ago. Philly also hosts to the 23 year old African American Children’s Book Fair, the largest event of its kind in the country.

Washington, D.C. is one of the nation’s great cities for readers of all types of literature, and despite the loss of a several important booksellers in recent years they continue to be one of the nation’s top cities for readers of African American literature.  D.C. is home to the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation and the ubiquitous booksellers Mahogany Books.  They have three newspapers, the Afro-American, District Chronicles, and the Washington Informer.

Second Tier Cities

Black Classic PressBaltimore, MD
Chicago, IL
Houston, TX
Columbus, OH
New Orleans, LA

Baltimore, MD, covered by the Baltimore Times, hosts several annual Black book events including, the Baltimore African American Book Festival. Baltimore also the home of the publisher Black Classic Press who has been publishing books for over 35 years.  The bookstore, Everyone’s Place, also calls Baltimore home.

Chicago, IL is a city with a great literary tradition. They are the home to the venerated, Third World Press, who has been publishing books for almost 50 years.   They are the top city for independent newspapers, leading the way with the iconic, 114-year-old, Chicago Defender.   Chicago is also one of the top cities for independent bookstores which include Frontline Bookstore and The Underground Bookstore.  The city also hosts the popular, The Cavalcade of Authors, an event which just celebrated its 10 year.

New Orleans, LA, is home to three newspapers, Data News Weekly, Louisiana Weekly, and the New Orleans Tribune.  They are also known for several book events including; The Bayou Soul Writers and Reader’s Conference; and Homefest, hosted by the Community Book Center.  New Orleans was also one of the few cities listed here not penalized for making the list of the worse performing cities for literacy.

Houston, TX is home to one of the oldest websites, dedicated to Black books, Cushcity.com,  Cushcity also ran a physical store for a number of years but is now best known the National Black Book Festival, which has hosted most of the top African American authors.  Houston is also another top city for Book clubs and brought the most number of new visitors to AALBC.com in 2014.

Third Tier

St. Louis American

St. Louis American, the Best Black Newspaper in the Nation

Cleveland, OH
Detroit, MI
Memphis, TN
Newark, NJ
Richmond, VA
Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO

Cleveland, OH has one of the highest library visits per capita of any city in the country.  They are the home to A Cultural Exchange bookstore.

Detroit, MI, boasts a Black citizenry of more than 82% of the total population and is the home to three newspapers, Michigan Chronicle, Michigan Citizen, and the Telegram Newspaper.  They are the home to Source Booksellers and The Essence of Motown Writers Alliance & Motown Writers Network.

Memphis, TN, is the home of Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore & Gift Shop.   The also have three newspapers, the Nashville Pride, The Tennessee Tribune, and Tri-State Defender and is a top city for book clubs.

Newark, NJ’s newly elected Mayor, Ras Baraka, the son of former NJ State Poet laureate Amiri Baraka, holds a great deal of promise for a city with an established literary legacy.

Richmond, VA is the home to Richmond Free Press, and The Richmond Voice newspapers.  Richmond, with a Black population greater than 50%, is on Amazon’s list of the “Most Well-Read Cities in America.”

Seattle, WA attracted Go On Girl! Book Club’s, 30 national chapters, for their 23rd Annual Awards Weekend.  The city of avid readers visits the Seattle Public Library at one of the highest rates, per capita, than any city in the country.  Seattle is also #4 on on Amazon’s list of most well-read cities.

St. Louis, MO is home to The St. Louis American who won the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Russwurm/Senstacke Trophy for general excellence, making it the “Best Black Newspaper” in the nation.

Worthy of Note

aa-citiesAnn Arbor, MI;
Baton Rouge, LA;
Birmingham, AL;
Dallas, TX;
Fort Worth, TX;
Indianapolis, IN;
Milwaukee, WI;
Oakland, CA; and
Tallahassee, FL.

We appreciate people still prefer to see rankings, so we published the ranking of the top 26 American U.S. cities on our discussion forum.

You may freely share this information provided you credit the source, Troy Johnson, AALBC.om and include the following URL, http://aalbc.it/cities4blackreaders to link back to this page.

We welcome critiques in the comments section below.

Sources

American Library Association (Public Library Information)
Cush City (Book club information)
Huria Search (Newspaper, Magazine, Bookstore, Book Web Site, Information)
United States Census Bureau (Population Demographics)

Posted in 2014, African-American, books, Culture, reading, writers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Garvey & Garveyism is Back in Print / 100 Anniversary of UNIA

Garvey and GarveyismGarvey and Garveyism, a well known classic that has been out of print for more than 3 decades, is essential for readers seeking to understand Black Power and the Garvey movement.

Order by Garvey & Garveyism by Amy Jacques GarveyGarvey & Garveyism by Amy Jacques Garvey

Introduction by John Henrik Clarke with a NEW “Son’s Perspective” by Dr. Julius Garvey

Like all great dreamers and planners, Marcus Garvey (August 17, 1887 to June 10, 1940) dreamed and planned ahead of his time and his peoples’ ability to understand the significance of his life’s work. A set of circumstances, mostly created by the world colonial powers, crushed this dreamer, but not his dreams. Due to persistence and years of sacrifice of Mrs. Amy Jacques Garvey, widow of Marcus Garvey, a large body of work by and about this great nationalist leader has been preserved and can be made available to a new generation of black people who have the power to turn his dreams into realities. —From the introduction by John Henrik Clarke.

Written as a participant and confidant, Amy Jacques Garvey’s perspective continues to provide an intimate and first-person narrative of the Garvey movement and this important nascent period of Black Nationalism. 364 pages. (Black Classic Press, August 2014, ISBN: 978-1-57478-116-8, $24.95).

AALBC.com subscribers use discount code AALBC and buy the book for just $17.47 (30% off). Offer good until September 30th!

Photo of Amy Jacques Garvey provided by Dr. Julius Garvey.

Photo of Amy Jacques Garvey provided by Dr. Julius Garvey.

Amy Jacques Garvey (1896-1973) was a leading Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist, as well as the wife of Marcus Garvey, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities’ League (UNIA-ACL). Born in Jamaica, Amy Jacques moved to the United States in 1917, became a committed Garveyite and Garvey’s personal secretary. She later served as Secretary General of the UNIA, and as a columnist for the organization’s paper, the Negro World. She married Garvey in 1922 and provided key leadership for the UNIA during his imprisonment and later expulsion from the United States. Following his death in 1940, Mrs. Garvey, then living in Jamaica, raised their two sons, Marcus, Jr., and Julius, and continued to support African leaders and Pan-Africanist organizations. In addition to preserving critical documents on the Garvey movement, she authored essential books on Marcus Garvey and the movement he led, including The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Garvey and Garveyism, and Black Power in America. Writing as a participant and confidant, Amy Jacques Garvey’s perspective continues to provide an intimate and first-person narrative of the Garvey movement and this important nascent period of Black Nationalism.

John Henrik Clarke (1915-1998) published over 50 short stories in the United States and abroad. His best known short story, “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black,” has been translated into more than a dozen languages. His articles and conference papers on African and African American history and culture have been published in leading journals throughout the world. He served as a staff member of five different publications and was the co-founder and associate editor of the Harlem Quarterly (1949-1950). Among the many books he wrote or edited are American Negro Short Stories, William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond (also published as The Second Crucifixion of Nat Turner), Malcolm X: The Man and His Time, Harlem USA, and African People in World History.

Julius Garvey is the youngest son of Amy Jacques Garvey and Marcus Garvey. He is a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon. He lives in Sea Cliff, NY.


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Enjoy,
Troy Johnson
AALBC.com’s, Founder and Webmaster

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7 Award Winning Books You Will Definitely Enjoy

Ernest J. Gaines

Ernest J. Gaines

The following seven books are all winners of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.  This award honors Louisiana’s revered storyteller, Ernest J. Gaines, and serves to inspire and recognize rising African-American fiction writers of excellence at a national level. The book award, initiated by donors of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has become nationally recognized in its role of enhancing visibility of emerging black fiction writers while also expanding the audience for this literature. The annual award of a $10,000 cash prize is to support the writer and help enable her/him to focus on her/his art of writing.

Eligible entries are read by a panel of judges, themselves renowned contributors to the literary world. They are Thomas Beller, Anthony Grooms, Elizabeth Nunez, Francine Prose and Patricia Towers.

A Killing in This Town

Winner 2007

A Killing in This Town
by Olympia Vernon

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Olympia Vernon won the first Gaines Award for A Killing in This Town, her third novel.  A Killing in This Town, is a taut, poetic masterpiece that exhumes a horrific epoch from the annals of the American South.

There is a menace in the woods of Bullock County, Mississippi, and not only for the black man destined to be lynched when a white boy comes of age. The white men who work at the Plant are in danger, too, but they refuse to heed Earl Thomas’s urgent message that the factory is slowly killing them; turning a deaf ear to the black pastor. Thomas knows he should try to deliver the message again, but he hears the blood of his murdered friend calling to him from the ground, and fears that he will be the next black man to be dragged to his death. Adam Pickens, a white boy now on the eve of his thirteenth birthday, isn’t sure he wants to wear the garb being readied for him by the Klan seamstress, or participate in the town’s ugly ritual. It is only when Gill Mender—a man haunted by past sins—returns that redemption seems possible. A transfixing and pivotal work of fiction, A Killing in This Town exposes the fragile hierarchy of a society poisoned by hatred, and shows the power of an individual to stand up to the demons of history and bring the cycle of violence to an end.

Like Trees, Walking.

Winner 2008

Like Trees, Walking
by Ravi Howard

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Like Trees, Walking examines an old tale in the New South. Based on the true story of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama, the novel follows the lives of Paul and Roy Deacon, teenagers and childhood friends of Michael Donald, as they cope with the aftermath of his hanging. It is Paul Deacon who discovers the body, and the experience leaves him forever changed.

The Deacons have operated a funeral home in the city for over 100 years. When the family is asked to conduct the services for Michael, Roy Deacon must examine whether a life in the family tradition is where he belongs.

The story explores the vivid history and landscape of the Gulf Coast community and takes readers down the wooden–bricked streets of turn of the century Mobile with its Spanish architecture and its tree–lined avenues that host the annual Mardi Gras parades.

Readers experience the complexities of the American South–the beauty of the landscape mixed with the ugliness of its racial history–as the characters cope with a tragic chapter in the unfolding story of the New South.

Holding Pattern: Stories

Winner 2009

Holding Pattern: Stories
by Jeffrey Allen

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The world of Jeffery Renard Allen’s stunning short-story collection is a place like no other. A recognizable city, certainly, but one in which a man might sprout wings or copper pennies might fall from the skies onto your head. Yet these are no fairy tales. The hostility, the hurt, is all too human.

The protagonists circle each other with steely determination: a grandson taunts his grandmother, determined to expose her secret past; for years, a sister tries to keep a menacing neighbor away from her brother; and in the local police station, an officer and prisoner try to break each other’s resolve.

In all the stories, Allen calibrates the mounting tension with exquisite timing, in mesmerizing prose that has won him comparisons with Joyce and Faulkner. Holding Pattern is a captivating collection by a prodigiously talented writer.

Bis Machine

Winner 2010

Big Machine
by Victor LaValle

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Ricky Rice was as good as invisible: a middling hustler, recovering dope fiend, and traumatized suicide cult survivor running out the string of his life as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, New York. Until one day a letter appears, summoning him to the frozen woods of Vermont. There, Ricky is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard The Voice: a mysterious murmur on the wind, a disembodied shout, or a whisper in an empty room that may or may not be from God.

Evoking the disorienting wonder of writers like Haruki Murakami and Kevin Brockmeier, but driven by Victor LaValle’s perfectly pitched comic sensibility Big Machine is a mind-rattling literary adventure about sex, race, and the eternal struggle between faith and doubt.

How to Read the Air

Winner 2011

How to Read the Air
by Dinaw Mengestu

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A “beautifully written”* (New York Times Book Review) novel of redemption by a prize-winning international literary star.

From the acclaimed author of The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears comes a heartbreaking literary masterwork about love, family, and the power of imagination.

Following the death of his father Yosef, Jonas Woldemariam feels compelled to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, he sets out to retrace his mother and father’s honeymoon as young Ethiopian immigrants and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn country of his parents’ youth to a brighter vision of his life in America today. In so doing, he crafts a story- real or invented-that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.

We Are Taking Only What We Need

Winner 2012

We Are Taking Only What We Need
by Stephanie Powell Watts

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African American women protagonists lose and find love, confront sanity and craziness, and strive to make sense of their lives in North Carolina. A Jehovah’s Witness girl goes door-to-door with an expert field-service partner from up north. At a call center, operator Sheila fields a caller’s uncomfortable questions under a ruthless supervisor’s eye. Forty-something Aunt Ginny surprises the family by finding a husband, but soon she gives them more to talk about.

Pulitzer-Prize winner Edward P. Jones writes, “Watts offers an impressive debut that promises only wonderful work to come.”

The Cutting Season

Winner 2013

The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke

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The Cutting Season is a rare murder mystery with heft, a historical novel that thrills, a page-turner that makes you think. Attica Locke is a dazzling writer with a conscience.” —Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Wench

Attica Locke’s breathtaking debut novel, Black Water Rising, won resounding acclaim from major publications coast-to-coast and from respected crime fiction masters like James Ellroy and George Pelecanos, earning this exciting new author comparisons to Dennis Lehane, Scott Turow, and Walter Mosley.

Locke returns with The Cutting Season, a second novel easily as gripping and powerful as her first—a heart-pounding thriller that interweaves two murder mysteries, one on Belle Vie, a historic landmark in the middle of Lousiana’s Sugar Cane country, and one involving a slave gone missing more than one hundred years earlier. Black Water Rising was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar® Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the U.K.

Winner 2014 ?
Submission are being accepted until October 1st, 2014, and registration is free.

The 2014 winner will be announced at Eighth Annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence which will be presented, Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

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