The Importance of Literacy



…and this is what you read.

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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 environments that are supportive of, and 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.   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.

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.

Columbus, OH readers take advantage of their library visiting the Columbus Metropolitan Library, at an average rate of almost nine visits per year, the 5th highest in the country.  Columbus is home to the Ujamaa Book Store.  Readers from Columbus are also active online; they are #9 on AALBC.com’s list of top visitors based upon, page views, time spent on the site, and number of visitors.

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.

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, hosts the Black Writers And Book Clubs Literacy Festival is one of the top 10 cities visiting AALBC.com over the past year.  The city is home to the Tri-State Defender newspaper and is also 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 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;
Tallahassee, FL; and
Raleigh, NC.

Each of these cities rank well on three or more dimensions and show strong potential for breaking into one of the top tiers.

We appreciate people still prefer to see rankings, so we published the ranking of the top 50 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 , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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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