Only 54 Black Owned Bookstores Remain in America

This is a follow up to an article, Death of the Black Owned, Independent, Bookstore, originally published here on March 25, 2012.   The article highlighted the fact the we had lost 66% of our Black owned bookstores, in the United States, over the previous decade. That was and remains an astonishing statistic.

Two years later almost half of the stores still open in 2012 have closed.  You read that correctly, ALMOST HALF!  At the end of this article I’ve included a list of all the Black owned stores that remain open.  Here is a list of the stores that we have lost since 2002.

Harlem, NY's Hue-man Bookstore closed July 2012

Harlem, NY’s Hue-man Bookstore closed July 2012

Our bookstores have closed for every reason under the sun.  Many were started by people with a passion for literature but weak business skills and other have fallen prey to escalating rents and a dismal economy.

Perhaps a more pernicious reason, contributing to the closure of bookstores, is simply less demand for the product.   There is mounting evidence that we, all Americans, are simply reading less.

The National Endowment for the Arts issued a report in 2004, Reading at Risk,
in which they warned us that, “…literary reading in America is not only declining among all groups, but the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young.”

It is not just bookstores that are suffering.  Websites that focus on Black books are suffering.  Attendance at book fairs, conferences and festivals are down as well. Some events have even been cancelled due to low registration.

Eso Eon Books

Eso Won Books has been serving the Los Angeles community for almost 25 years.

While literary reading is declining in America, our own platforms are doing very little to indicate that books or the stories and information they contain are worthy of attention, or are important.  Coverage of Black books in magazines and newspaper—even those intended for Black readers is miniscule and critical book reviews are virtually nonexistent.

Now books are clearly not the only way to relate stories or transfer information, but nothing available now, or on the horizon, appears capable of replacing what was lost.

The following is a complete list of the remaining Black owned independent bookstores in the United States.  Please visit Huria.org for more information about these bookstores and many others that serve communities of color.

If you believe in the importance of bookstores, which are dedicated to books by or about people of African descent, go out of your way to support one of the stores below.

Do we want to see an America where the ONLY place Black books can be purchased is from Amazon?  Do we really want Amazon to have that responsibility—all by themselves?

If visiting an supporting a Black owned bookstore is physically impracticable here are a list of websites you can support, including this one, AALBC.com: http://huria.org/booksites

La Unique African American Books & Cultural Center, Camden, NJ Opened in 1992

La Unique African American Books & Cultural Ctr, Camden, NJ – Opened in 1992

The Last Black Owned Bookstores Open in the U.S.

Pyramid Art Books & Custom Framing – Little Rock, AR

Smiley’s Bookstore – Carson, CA
Zahra’s Books and Things – Inglewood, CA
Shades of Afrika Bookstore – Long Beach, CA
Eso Won Bookstore – Los Angeles, CA
Marcus Books – Oakland, CA
Underground Books – Sacramento, CA
Marcus Books – San Francisco, CA (read what happened)

DC Bookdiva’s Mobile Bookstore – Washington, DC
Sankofa Video and Bookstore – Washington, DC
The Children Of The Sun – Washington, DC

MeJah Books & Crafts, Tri-State Mall – Claymont, DE

Pyramid Books – Boynton Beach, FL
Dare Books – Longwood, FL

Medu Bookstore, Greenbriar Mall – Atlanta, GA
The Shrine of the Black Madonna – Atlanta, GA
NuBian Books – Morrow, GA

Lushena Bookstore – Bensenville, IL
Books Ink – Chicago, IL
Da Book Joint – Chicago, IL
Frontline Bookstore – Chicago, IL
The Underground Bookstore – Chicago, IL
Black Expression Book Source – Evergreen Park, IL
Azizi Books – Matteson, IL
Afri-Ware Inc. – Maywood, IL

The Wild Fig Books – Lexington, KY

Community Book Center – New Orleans, LA

Frugal Bookstore – Roxbury, MA
Olive Tree Books-n-Voices – Springfield, MA

Everyone’s Place – Baltimore, MD
Cartel Cafe & Books Store – Oxon Hill, MD

Shrine of the Black Madonna, Book Store and Cultural Center – Detroit, MI
Source Booksellers – Detroit, MI
Off the Beaten Path Books & Cafe – Farmington, MI
The Truth Bookstore – Southfield, MI
Hood Book Headquarters – Warren, MI
Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center – Ypsilanti, MI

Progressive Emporium & Education Center – St. Louis, MO

Aframerican Book Store – Omaha, NE

La Unique African American Books & Cultural Center, Camden, NJ
African American Book Store – Hackensack, NJ

Zawadi Books – Buffalo, NY
Becoming Gods Answer Bookstore – New York, NY
Sister’s Uptown Bookstore – New York, NY
Mood Makers Books & Art Gallery Village Gate Square – Rochester, NY

A Cultural Exchange – Cleveland, OH
Black Art Plus – Columbus, OH
Ujamaa Book Store – Columbus, OH

Big Blue Marble Bookstore – Philadelphia, PA
Black and Nobel – Philadelphia, PA
Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop – Philadelphia, PA
Horizon Books Inc. – Philadelphia, PA
Prosperity Bookstore Inc – Philadelphia, PA

The Booksmith – Seneca, SC
The Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination – Greenville, SC

The Pan-African Connection Bookstore – Dallas, TX
The Dock Bookshop – Fort Worth, TX
African Imports Houston – Houston, TX

Positive Vibes – Virginia Beach, VA
House of Consciousness – Norfolk, VA

The Reader’s Choice – Milwaukee, WI

As of August 26, 2014 the number of stores listed above is 61

Please keep in mind that maintaining this list is resource intensive and is done on a volunteer basis.  Check our bookstore database: http://huria.org/bookstores/ for the most update information we have available.  If you find any inaccurate or missing information there please email me troy@aalbc.com.  Also check out our new bookstore map introduced in August of 2014.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...Only 54 Black Owned Bookstores Remain in America

About Troy

Troy D. Johnson is the President, founder and webmaster of AALBC.com, LLC (The African American Literature Book Club). Launched in March of 1998, AALBC.com has grown to become the largest and most frequently visited website dedicated to books and films by and about people of African descent.
This entry was posted in 2014, African-American, Bestsellers, book, books, bookstore, Huria Search, reading, Troy's Rants, writers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • kwame

    the House of Consciousness in Norfolk VA

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Thanks for sharing the information Kwame, House of Consciousness has been added http://aalbc.it/hocbooks

  • Vincent Purvis

    Amazon has used books for a fraction of the cost, with loads of titles by black authors .Kindle is also very convenient. I tried to support a few black owned bookstores and one of them was NEVER open. I gave up and a short time later they went out of business. That’s when I found Amazon, Half.com etc for discounted books.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      I hear you. You should check out our book of the week. The book seller is MaghoganyBooks the books are new releases and always priced lower than Amazon: http://aalbc.com/books/mahoganybooks.html

  • Vincent Purvis

    I just did a quick look at the list in Phila and see one does ship to prisons. I will give check them out because the prison my brother is serving time does not allow the used books that are sold from someone’s home. Thanks for sharing the list as I would prefer to spend my money with the store in Philly, Black and Noble, than Barnes and Noble :)

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Hey Vincent, that is the point. No single bookstore can possibly meet every single need for every single reader but when they do we should take advantage of their services.

  • Ron

    Alkebu-Lan Images Book Store -Nashville, TN

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Thanks Ron, I actually already had Alkebu-Lan on my list: http://aalbc.it/Alkebu-Lan but I could not confirm whether they were still open. I have to review my notes but there is no website we were unable to reach anyone. Are you affiliated with the store? Have you been there recently? Thanks.

  • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

    Here is a list of stores whose status I was unable to confirm for a variety of reasons

    Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore & Gift Shop – Nashville, TN
    Black Books Galore, Inc. – Stamford, CT
    Black Mind Book Boutique – Brooklyn, NY
    Books ‘n Things, Cross Keys Plaza – Wichita, KS
    Ethnic Notions Bookstore – Benicia, CA
    Hanna’s Ethnic Bookseller – Claremont, CA
    Imoya Treasures, Inc – Rahway, NJ
    Magnolia Tree Books – Laurel, MS
    MasterWorks Books – Adelphi, MD
    Shrine of the Black Madonna – Houston, TX
    Smiley’s, The Mecca of Information – Carson, CA
    The African Book Shelf – Cleveland, OH
    The Book Suite – Columbus, OH
    Uhuru Books – Saint Paul, MN
    Urban Books On Wheels – Pleasantville, NJ
    Yoruba Book Center – Brooklyn, NY
    Zambezi Bazaar – Los Angeles, CA

    • Carmine Matlock

      I live in Nashville. Alkebu-Lan is still open. I was there just a few days ago.

      • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

        Thanks Carmine!

  • http://www.facebook.com/official.angelomartinez Angelo Martinez

    There’s a Sisters Bookstore inside of the Sweet Auburn Curb Market here in Downtown Atlanta. I buy books there almost weekly.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Thanks Angelo I found them on Facebook http://facebook.com/sistersbookshop (I wish they had their own website) I’ll add them to the database shortly–Thanks!

      • http://www.facebook.com/official.angelomartinez Angelo Martinez

        No problem this dialogue and database is needed. Thanks for being a pivotal resource. :)

  • Valinda Miller

    There are none in South Carolina, but I hope in the next two months it will be.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      I hope so too — please email me info@huria.org the information when it opens.

  • angeliaj

    Timbuktu Bookstore at 3601 East Ocean View Ave Norfollk, VA is still open but only opens on Saturday and Sunday 12pm-7pm.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      I know the store and actually visited it a couple of years ago. The store is in my database and was flagged as closed. Their website stopped working. But that should not have been cause for the store to have been removed — that was a mistake thanks @angeliaj http://aalbc.it/timbuktubookstore

  • angeliaj

    Truth and Knowledge Bookstore at 645 Church St Norfolk, VA is a black owned bookstore that I didn’t see on any of your list.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      @angeliaj I’m gonna need a bit more help with this one. I can’t find any primary information about this bookstore. The closest I could find to a website was this site: http://truthandknowledge.net/ which, once you browse around looks like it has been hijacked :-( A phone number would be most helpful — thanks for you time and effort.

  • Tanji R. Marshall

    Troy…Does your book of the week include picture book and young adult novels for our school-aged readers? Many times students are asked to being books to school from home and you’d be surprised and horrified to see how many girls come with Zane books and others like that. When the time comes for these students to engage on conversation around their books, our students are on the short end because the content of what they’ve brought cannot be shared, nor can the teacher engage in one-on-one conferencing.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      @Tanji our current book “The Harlem Hellfighters” is a graphic novel about the first African-American regiment to fight in World War One. It is priced lower than Amazon too! The boo will change tomorrow but there are a a variety of titles offered.

  • Idellah Ashlie

    Thank you Mr. Johnson for this article which is an alert and and action call. It’s difficult for black businesses (or any for that matter) to thrive when there’s a lack of support within the local/national communities. It’s a combination of things contributing to that such as simply not being aware of a bookstore in your community/city. People are so distracted its easy to miss something wonderful like a bookstore. Those who do not at least have a web page are doing themselves a disservice, because now, the majority of the time we want to look up information about a product/service, we go to the Internet. Also, I think one of the main factors in the decline in bookstores in general is due to the mass move to digital readership (Kindle, Nook, tablets, etc.) with purchases being made through online suppliers like Amazon. The ones who have made themselves in to a bookstore/coffee house are using good strategy as that helps give a personal experience and respite you can’t get from buying online.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Thanks for the kind words @idellahashlie:disqus.

      I’m not sure the final chapter on eBooks has been written. The data I’ve collected and seen from other sources suggest that eBook adoption has slowed and may have level off. As I write this I’m sitting in a bookstore. I purchased a food, coffee and even a book and impulse buy of Stephen Hawkin’s “The Illustrated A Brief History of Time & The Universe in a Nutshell” I’d actually previously read “A Brief History of Time” but brought this version because of the illustrations and the discounted price. If you saw the book you would also see that an electronic version would simply not be as compelling.

  • Dr. Embry

    I’m from Detroit also Blackstar Community Bookstore 7 mile…Respect for the article….SMH!!

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      @Dr. Embry can you help me out an provide a bit more information about this store. A website address (I can not find one) or a phone number (the one I found in a business directory, 313-863-2665, was disconnected). Thanks.

  • apreachaskid

    One of the things that I think gets seriously overlooked when we consider the ramifications of what is being missed in all of this is the target audience for which many of these store are opened for; African Americans. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that fewer African Americans read, in comparison to every other ethnic group. Let’s consider the fact that even within the African American community, even fewer who do read are focused on Ethnocentric themes. That’s a real niche market. Then, also consider the fact that there has for quite some time, for whatever reason, been little support from African Americans of black owned businesses. These are hard truths to face.

    You can argue the point that other ethnic groups support their own, and you’d be right; but you’d be overlooking the fact that they did not face many of the hardships that have caused our community to either distrust or preference shopping elsewhere. What you’d also be overlooking is that while many of the other ethnic groups do circulate money within their community, many do not isolate themselves from servicing just their own community. With such a niche market, it is a far fetched notion that it can survive on support from within its own community.

    Yes, be angry that there is no one crying out about this, but also recognize that bookstores in general are suffering due to changing technology, economy, and social awareness. If many of these places don’t adjust, the community will have essentially silenced itself.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Thanks for taking the time to share you thoughts @apreachaskid:disqus. You raise a bunch of important points.

      I don’t want to suggest that Black owned stores are just for Black readers or even Black books. Indeed, I don’t think they should be. But the Black owned stores are the ones most likely to carry a variety of titles written by Black writers. Even AALBC.com profiles white writers Jack Ezra Keats (http://aalbc.com/authors/ezrajack.htm), Howard Zinn (http://aalbc.com/authors/howard_zinn.htm), etc.

      The loss of Black owned stores has dramatically impacted the numbers of places where readers can discover books by written by Black writers, who are most likely to incorporate Black characters, stories and information important to our community.

      I also do not want to imply that Black writers should write only about Black people or Ethoncentric themes. Jason Mott, a Black author whose book, “The Returned” was recently recommended on this Blog contains only one Black character: http://aalbc.com/authors/jason-mott.html

      So I do not recommend that Black owned bookstores limit themselves to serving just the Black community, for much of what Black writers produce would appeal to a audience beyond Black folks.

      Honestly the bookstore issue and the lack of outcry is really symptomatic of much more profound problems that have little to do with technology, the economy and social awareness…

      I agree completely with your conclusion that our community, if it does not adjust, will be silenced.

      I’d take it a step farther and say that our voice HAS essentially been silenced because we no longer control our voice. THIS is why the community has been silent about the virtual extinction of Black owned bookstores. The powers that be are perfectly happy with Black books only being available for purchase online from Amazon–and judging by the way we behave we appear to want it that way too.

  • Yvette MotownWitch Willis

    Off The Beaten Path Bookstore in Farmington, MI is also owned by a Sister.

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      @yvettemotownwitchwillis:disqus Thanks for the information! I added the bookstore: http://aalbc.it/otbpbooks Who knew there was a store dedicated to Steamfunk :-)

      • Yvette MotownWitch Willis

        :-)

  • Shombay The Trainer
  • Sola Adenekan

    hi there, Reflections is no longer opened….I knew the owner quite well…

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      @solaadenekan:disqus thanks for taking the time to provide the update.

  • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

    All of the panel discussions, including the one excerpted here will be broadcast on C-Span’s Book TV: http://aalbc.com/tc/index.php?/topic/2617-c-span-book-tv-to-broadcast-the-twelfth-national-black-writers-conference/

  • http://about.me/mel_hopkins Mel Hopkins

    I don’t feel sorry for any business owner that doesn’t know his/her patrons. Even BN almost got caught out there. I was commenting on a status the other day – and I learned what readers (our peers) look for when they buy books – Oddly enough the status talked about the Amazon settlement on ebooks… each person talked about what they would do with their settlement. From that one conversation I learned who buys the most ebooks – who buys paper books and how they make their decision on books to buy… As a bookseller/publisher/novelist – that conversation was eye-opening! I immediately used the information and sold a few books.

    I could imagine you could even be in the bookselling business if you wanted to do fulfillment. I actually purchased a hardcover based on your recommendation. I think I clicked through your link to purchase from Amazon – but I would have much rather purchased it directly from you… Even if you sold, resold hard to find black out-of-print/rare books – it would enhance your business model – wait…if you don’t do that I think I just might on my ebay account

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      Hi @melhopkins2012:disqus you raise some good points. I’ve sold books many different ways including; shipping them myself; having other independent entities fulfill the orders; and through a number of affiliate programs including, Indie Bound, B&N and of course Amazon.

      Fulfilling order directly (AALBC.com ships the orders) is labor and resource intensive; storage, allowances for loses, manpower, shipping are issues I’m not interested in dealing with, so I’m perfectly happy earning commissions while having another entities fulfill the orders.

      The relativity of the situation is that people overwhelming buy from Amazon when given a choice. When I don’t present a choice and just offer a non-amazon entity ordering rates are lower. MahoganyBooks.com fulfills the orders on my best-selling books website, The Power List: http://powerlist.info/ I hate to say orders are MUCH lower than when I used Amazon. Despite that I’m sticking with MahoganyBooks, the decision is not solely business driven it is mission driven, if you know what I mean.

      My demographic was slower to gain access to the internet, slower to order online, and will be slower to move away from ordering only from big corporate sites ordering from indie, Black-owned businesses. But I hope our demographic begins to support the independent entities more. If not we will lose all the indie Black-owned bookstores not just the physical stores but the online ones as well.

      Selling rare out of print books is really a different kind of business than the one that I’m in. As you suggest it is one anyone with an E-bay account can engage in.

      Please share a link the the site where learned about the consumer buying habits. Also include a link to information about your books too :-)

      • http://about.me/mel_hopkins Mel Hopkins

        I thought I already replied to this response -but I cannot find it! If this a duplicate, I apologize.

        Troy,
        as I was reading your response a few things popped into my mind…

        1- Thank you! How kind of you to suggest that I
        include a link to my books. As a passive marketer, I wondered, since a
        few of us who comment here are also author/booksellers how cool would it be if when we signed in to comment; our book widgets (amazon.com or any retail website you are an affiliate) would pop up next to us… sort of like how my disqus gravatar links to my comment. A click through of that sort is a win for both us. But for now –

        http://www.amazon.com/Mel-Hopkins/e/B002BLQFS2

        2- I agree it would be a loss to the black community
        if any independently owned retail store closed but it would especially hard if black independent bookstores would go by the way of the dodo

        As a result, however, in the digital age,
        AALBC.com would secure its position as the clearinghouse for all things Black literary and Pop fiction. It would also cement its spot as the go-to website for breaking Af-Am lit news, commentary
        and community events.

        I actually open and scan my AALBC Newsletter each month. It is my connection to staying in the loop and current in the black literary world. I’m just waiting for a gossip section so I can really feel in the mix with Black Literati.
        Btw, this is my first time reading about mahoganybooks.com . Thanks for the heads up.

        3. “The dream” booksellers’
        conversation about how we decide to buy books happened on a mutual friend’s FB
        page. It isn’t public –

        Here’s a summary – 6 women 1 man (Professional degrees, college educated, maybe middle-class middle-aged group) received
        a grand total of 51.00 in eBook settlement money from amazon – now of course that looks like about $7 refund per person if you average it – but
        really the settlement ranged from .78 to 25.87 – The one who got the largest settlement bought the most books, of course
        but one woman says she subscribes to sites that send her daily email on how to get free books ; another woman said she hates to pay full price for books so she uses coupons, discounts, sales and gift cards to buy books. This insight into the pleasure-reading book buying public was priceless to me.

  • Angela

    Thank you so much for this much needed information. I am seriously thinking about opening a bookstore in McDonough, GA. Will definitely keep you posted.

  • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

    Also check out CaribLit: http://www.cariblit.org/ Caribbean Literature Action Group: News, Information, Resources for Caribbean Publishing
    https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/3274594183/4b0249bdf2680cb69f06bbbce8d27313.png

  • Bev.

    Thanks so much for this informative article. There is a Black Owned Bookstore in Camden, NJ called “La Unique”.

  • Commander

    Bookstore and REAL-FM radio station in Greenville, SC

  • James Commander

    ATTENTION—-> there is a book store / cultural center in Greenville, South Carolina with a real FM Radio Station (WMXP 95.5 FM)—>The Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination Located at 321 W. Atrium Drive, P.O. Box 16102. (864) 239-0470. operated by Efia Nwangaza since 1991. Email: wmxp955@gmail.com / mxcenetergvl@gmail.com . . . .http://wmxp955.webs.com/aboutus.htm
    [that's me and Efia in photo at radio station and the film viewing room in the center].

    • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

      @jamescommander:disqus thanks for the information I have updated the list above and my database: http://aalbc.it/mxcsd

  • Guest

    The book store in the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination Located at 321 W. Atrium Drive, P.O. Box 16102. (864) 239-0470. operated by Efia Nwangaza since 1991.
    Email: wmxp955@gmail.com / mxcenetergvl@gmail.com . . .
    .http://wmxp955.webs.com/aboutus.htm
    [that's me and Efia in photo at radio station and the film viewing room in the center].

  • Guest

  • http://www.moamper.com/ James Commander

    @AALBC:disqus and @apreachaskid:disqus . . . .Troy’s video and store closing facts are a HUGE wake up call–PERIOD! . . .A major book retailer recently closed [BOOKS-A-MILLION] and what was funny is that their regional center REJECTED my history/genealogy book–HOWEVER–my book still wound up in their on-line store! Also, all major retail store web sites, Kindle, Apple iBooks, etc.

    LARGE black-owned bookstores with lecture spaces, etc. are PRICELESS community assets that must be preserved along with the African-American museums that are alternate author platforms for “our stories”. . . .FORTUNATELY, my book is a multi-media project that includes a supplementary “museum exhibit” which opens other author platforms like museums, libraries, etc.

  • Helenofreims

    Understand the article upon heritage specialized. Bookstores I can were are French language stores. USA it’s popularity and subject matter. Clarification when travel or reside. France we seldom discus former history. Tried of Americans chatter on bygone.
    Era’s especially 18th century not. Ideal conversation due economic times. France presently also before those say. Corporate influence cause the demise. Admit to yourself Blacks never supported. Merchant class due interference of main stream. Companies since Blacks not middle class. Figure interest level your literary. Consumer don’t pre assumption or suppose. To identify with heritage Hip hop.

    And lack understanding of literary Becoming laminate in perception we. Can’t face logic down anyone. Interest oppose sports,insecurity and music. Attractions so called African displays. Bias to majority never understood. False association with Africa never. Support economically the region demise. Due to lack of interest merchants. Refusing sell 25% current titles pay. The bills mention heritage. Books stores usually appeal students. Studies the majority good luck. Refuse change literary times. Be remembered as Marcus Books. Demanding to remain even they. Reopen going fail subject matters. Only few care about literature. So many Blacks signing publishing. Deals foreign companies enjoy. Arabella Kisesbauer renowned journalist Austria and Germany. Dual citizenship from Ghana writing. Sick of exclusive commerce Blacks.
    America don’t acknowledge elements African. Culture shame Hip hop destroy them.