Category Archives: Huria Search

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
Euphoria Books and Wellness House, Columbus, 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  (read what happened)

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

Black Star Community Book Store –  Detroit, MI
Shrine of the Black Madonna, Book Store and Cultural Center – Detroit, MI
Source Booksellers – Detroit, MI
Off the Beaten Path Books & Cafe – Farmington, MI
Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe – Highland Park, 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

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

Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore & Gift Shop – Nashville, TN

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

Hakim’s Bookstore - Currently in jeopardy of closing (photo circa 1970s by Yvonne Blake)
Hakim’s Bookstore – Currently in jeopardy of closing (photo circa 1970s by Yvonne Blake)

As of December 10, 2014 the number of stores listed above is 59. I have added or removed stores from this list since the article was originally published.

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 additional information about each store.  If you find any inaccurate or missing information here please email me troy@aalbc.com.  Also check out our new bookstore map introduced in August of 2014.

There is a Lack of Unity Among Black Websites

Over the last year, I’ve invested a lot of effort informing the public about the adverse impact of the corporate take over of the web and how this is hurting independent websites, particularly Black owned ones.

i-support-black-unity

Buy This Button from The House of Nubian

I have, however, not been very critical of the Black owned websites themselves.  Part of the reason for my lack of critique is that I’m very sensitive to the environment and in many ways understand when websites choose not to cooperate or work in unnecessarily competitive ways.

For example, Google, the most popular search engine, is now in a position to dictate to webmasters how to design their websites—what content can be published and how to link to other sites.   A webmaster does not have to comply with Google’s rules, but if they want their website to rank high enough to be found in Google’s search results, they have no choice.

Complying with Google’s mandates is not always easy.  The rules by which their search engine ranks websites changes constantly and no one outside of Google (few inside I suspect) completely understands how Google’s search algorithm works.  As a result, there is an entire industry of search engine optimization (SEO) experts ready to help webmasters with a wide range of tools and techniques to help sites rank high on a Google search result.  The most unscrupulous of these “professionals” will guarantee a number one ranking for a website, or even worse utilize “black hat” techniques (sophisticated ways of cheating) to obtain a higher search result ranking.  These techniques can leave a website worse off, by being penalized by Google for attempting to game their search algorithm and reducing the quality of the site as more emphasis is placed on the SEO than content.

As a consequence of SEO, webmasters now have an incentive not to link to other websites, or when they do link they are encouraged to use rel=”nofollow” which essentially tells Google’s search engine to ignore the link.  Google does not want webmasters to swap links with other websites or to be financially compensated for a link to another site without using rel=”nofollow.” Some webmasters, being overly cautious in avoiding Google’s warth, have gone a step further and have stopped linking to other sites altogether.

Before Google was invented swapping links was one way sites were discovered.  Today, when independent websites are harder to find via search, linking to other sites is even more important, but sadly it is done less frequently.  Many, Black owned, independent websites are not linking to each other in meaningful ways, and we are all harder to find as a result.

ebony-magFrustrated by having to spend more time and effort jumping through Google’s hoops, I’ve decided to more aggressively, and directly, support independent websites.  I visit these websites—not their social media platforms—and share their content, engage others on their discussion forums and comment on their articles.  I encourage everyone to take similar action, but I try to lead by example.

One of the entities I’ve been promoting is Ebony Magazine.  I subscribe to the magazine and have been enjoying Michael A. Gonzales’ Vintage Vision, column on Ebony’s website.  I’ve been promoting Ebony Magazine, as well as all of the Black owned magazines I’m aware of on Huria Search (an advertisement-free website dedicated to supporting Black owned websites).  I also promote Ebony’s website on my listing of the Top Black Websites.  I even have a collection of Ebony Magazine issues going back over 60 years.  I’m a fan and a supporter.

The last issue contained an informative article about Black Americans exiled in Cuba.  It was an interesting article and I learned quite a bit.  I shared my enthusiasm on Twitter:

Recently, I posted the following comment on an article Ebony shared from the, NJ Star-Ledger, about Amiri Baraka’s recent passing.  The comments expressed AALBC.com’s shared grief and a link to a short documentary we produced highlighting Baraka’s work.

Ebony marked the comment as spam!!

ebony-spam

Now I understand if Ebony does not want to link to a another site (as explained in great detail above), but they did not have to hurt AALBC.com by marking the post as spam.  They could have simply not allowed the comment to be seen.   Not only was the comment the exact opposite of spam, one could argue that Ebony, or at least their visitors, would have benefited from the link.

nothing-foundI do not support Ebony Magazine because I expect anything in return.  I learned long ago that the biggest websites are the ones least likely to reciprocate.  I do not support Ebony because I like I everything they do.

I support Ebony because what they do is increasingly rare and more important than ever to the Black community.  Their coverage of books in the last issue was good too—not the usual diet of celebrity books many magazines and websites feel obliged to focus on.  In fact, I tweeted about their book coverage as well.

My motivation is not to call out one magazine on a trivial slight, no one would have know about unless I mentioned it.  My goal is to highlight a symptom of a much bigger problem that manifests in numerable ways across the Internet landscape.  The fact of the matter is we are simply not working together, as well as we must, to survive.

Individually, none of us have a chance to compete, over the long term, against the huge corporations taking over the World Wide Web.  Embracing social media is not the answer.  Collectively, we provide FAR more support and promotion of social media platforms than we do our own and we continue to lose.

Unless we bind  together, support and uplift each other, we have no chance of retaining ownership of our voice on the web.  When we lose our voice, we see articles focusing on our scandals rather than our triumphs, we see content that is the most marketable rather than the most important.  We also lose our ability to create business and generate revenue online. We have already lost so much, but we still continue to willingly relinquish what little we have left.

I’m fighting to reverse this trend.  Will you help?

Additional Resources

 

Death of the Black Owned, Independent, Bookstore

Editor’s Note: We published an update of our bookstores in March of 2014.

One of the very first things I put on AALBC.com’s web site, back in 1999, was a list of independent, Black owned, bookstores.   This list was very difficult to maintain and over the years various individuals contributed to help keep it up to date.  My list, unfortunately, had not been updated since 2007.

Nkiru Books, a Brooklyn based institution founded in 1977, closed in 2002 - Photo Credit: Marcia Wilson

Nkiru Books, a Brooklyn based institution founded in 1977, closed in 2002 (not included on list below) – Photo Credit: Marcia Wilson

The Good News First:
In a joint effort, that included ABLE (The Alliance for Black Literature and Entertainment), Huria.org and AALBC.com, the out of date list of independent, Black owned, bookstores was revived and updated into database driven directory with maps, social media, photos and more.  The new bookstore database was launched today today and is available at Huria.org and here on AALBC.com (http://aalbc.it/blackbookstores).

Here is the Bad News:
When I looked over the results of our Bookstore research, my heart fell as I discovered more than 2 out of 3 stores that were in business just a few years ago are now closed.   I’ve shared the list of the closed bookstores below.  I have nothing more meaningful to add.  The list speaks for itself…

A & B Distributors – Brooklyn, NY
African & Islamic Books Plus – Cleveland, OH
African American Books and Publishing – Baltimore, MD
African American Gift Gallery – Knoxville, TN
African American Heritage Book – West Palm Beach, FL
African Artisans – Baldwin, NY
African Book Store – Fort Lauderdale, FL
African Heritage Books & Gifts – San Francisco, CA
African House Institute of Learning – Jersey City, NJ
African Marketplace – Los Angeles, CA
Afro Books – Atlanta, GA
Afrocentric Book Store – Chicago, IL
Afrocentric Books & Cafe – St. Louis, MO
Alkebulan Books – Berkeley, CA
Amen-Ra’s Bookstore and Gallery – Tallahassee, FL
Arawak Books – Hyattsville, MD
Ascension Books – Columbia, MD
Asiatic the Soul of Black Folks – Toronto, ON
Atlantic Bookpost – Reston, VA
B.T.S. Unlimited Books – Detroit, MI
Baruti-Ba Books – Dayton, OH
Bishari Urban Books, Phoenix Crossing Shopping Center – , NC
Black Book Discounters – Houston, TX
Black By Popular Demand – Hyattsville, MD
Black Classics – Books & Gifts – Mobile, AL
Black Images Book Bazaar – Dallas, TX
Black Spring Books – Vallejo, CA
Black Swan Books & Coffee – Kohler, WI
Blacknificent Books & More – Raleigh, NC
Blackprint Heritage Gallery – New Haven, CT
Book House Cafe & Gifts – Benton Harbor, MI
Books In Color – North Highlands, CA
Books in the Black – Columbia, SC
Bright Lights Children’s Bookstore – Inglewood, CA
Brother’s Books – Seattle, WA
Carol’s Essentials Ethnic Gifts and Books – Seattle, WA
Celebrate – Peachtree City, GA
Crescent Office Store – East Orange, NJ
Cultural Bookstore  – Chicago, IL
Cultural Expression – Newport News, VA
D & J Book Distributors – Laurelton, NY
Da Book Joint – Chicago, IL
DARE Books & Educational Supplies – Brooklyn, NY
DeesBookNook Distributors – So. Richmond Hills, NY
Dorothea’s African-American Books and Gifts – Columbia, SC
Drum and Spear Books – Washington, DC
Dygnyti Books – Hamden, CT
Dynasty Bookstore, Eastland Mall – Charlotte, NC
EDEN Books – Hartford, CT
Education 2000+ Bookstore – Long Beach, CA
Education Central, Sunny Isle Shopping Plaza – St. Croix,
Ethnic Elegance – Jacksonville, FL
Exhale African American Books & Gifts – Sugar Land, TX
Faith To Faith Books  – Minneapolis, MN
Forewords Books & Gifts, Located in Originations Gallery – Ann Arbor, MI
Freedom Now Bookstore – Decatur, GA
Gene’s Books – King of Prussia, PA
Haneef’s Bookstore and Mosi Art Gallery – Wilmington, DE
Heritage Bookstore and More – Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Heritage House – Charlotte, NC
Imagine This! Books Etc. – Memphis, TN
IronWood Corner – Pasadena, CA
Jamaicaway Books & Gifts – Boston, MA
Kana CDs & Books – Columbus, Ohio [Owner Cedric Reed closed the store in 2008 and cntinued Operation on-line until 2009]
Karibu Books – Hyattsville, MD, (6 Locations)
Know Thyself, Bookstore and Cultural Development Center – Philadelphia, PA
Kongo Square Gallery – Los Angeles, CA
LaCeter’s Book Service – Southfield, MI
Liberation Bookstore – New York, NY
Ligorius Bookstore Inc. – Philadelphia, PA
Living Room Book & Pastry – Greensboro, NC
Lodestar Books – Birmingham, AL
Love Christian Book Store – Orlando, FL
Mahogany Books – Detroit, MI
Mahogany Books & Gifts – Fairfield, AL
Matais Books Cards & Art – Long Beach, CA
Mind & Soul Bookstore, Inc. – Trenton, NJ
MochaReaders – Dayton, OH [Owner Rhonda Bogan thought long and hard about tough decision of closing store in 2011]
Montsho BookFairs, Etc., Inc. – Orlando, FL
Mt. Zion Kid’s Village, Little Angels Children’s Bookstore – Jonesboro, GA
Nefertiti’s Books and Gifts  – Jacksonville, FL
Nimde Books – Louisville, KY
Nu World of Books – Beaumont, TX
Off The Shelf African American Books – Columbia, SC
One Force Books – Richmond, VA
Our Black Heritage – New York, NY
Out of Africa, Windsor Park Mall – San Antonio, TX
Paperback Connection – Oklahoma City, OK
Paradise Book Store – Peoria, AZ
Peek-A-Boo Books II, Wheaton Mall – Wheaton, MD
People’s Books & Gifts – Springfield, OH
Phenix Information Center – San Bernardino, CA
PowerHouse Books – Hopkins, SC
Precious Memories Reading and Collectibles – Richmond, VA
Rainbow Books & Blooms – Yorktown Heights, NY
Reading Room Bookstore  – Chicago, IL
Roots & Wings: A Cultural Bookplace  – Montgomery, AL
Sacred Thoughts Bookstore – Jersey City, NJ
Sensational Minds – Savannah, GA
Serengeti Plains  – Montclair, NJ
Shades of Sienna – Oakland, CA
Sidewalk University – Memphis, TN
Soul Source Bookstore – Atlanta, GA
Special Occasions – Winston-Salem, NC
Stouffville Book Connection Inc – Stouffville, ON
TDIR Books – Columbia, SC
Tenaj Books & Gift Gallery – Fort Pierce, FL
The Black Bookworm – Fort Worth, TX
The Black Library – Boston, MA
The Book House Café, LGBT Books – Oakland, CA
The Book Lovers Lounge – Lauderdale Lakes, FL
The Cultural Connection Bookstore  – Milwaukee, WI
The Heritage Center – Vicksburg, MS
The Know Bookstore – Durham, NC
The Living Word Bookstore – Chicago, IL
The Presence of Africans In the Bible Book Center – Minneapolis, MN
The Reading Room Bookstore – Atlanta, GA
The Roots Book Store, Inside of Tapers Hair Care – Baton Rouge, LA
Too-No Books Etc. – Moss Point, MS
Treasures of the Mind Bookstore – St. Louis, MO
Tricia’s Books N’ Things – Houston, TX
Truth Boutique & Bookstore, Eastland Mall #823 – Harper Woods, MI
Tunde Dada House of Africa – Orange, NJ
Tunde Dada House of Africa, Green Acres Mall – Valley Stream, NY
Two Friends Bookstore – Atlanta, GA
Uhuru Books – Minneapolis, MN
Under One Roof Afrikan American Bookstore – Killeen, TX
W&W African American Art, Specializing in Books & Gift Items, Etc. – Fayetteville, NC
X-pression Bookstore & Gallery – Indianapolis, IN
Yawa Books – Washington, DC
Yehudah Inc. – Teaneck, NJ
Zawadi Gift Shop – Brooklyn, NY

…Actually I do have something to add.  If you happen to reside in a community fortunate enough to have an independent bookstore, please support it.  These establishments are true community and cultural, treasures.   Sure eBooks and websites are great, but not everything can be replaced with machines and technology.

While we attempted to make this list as accurate as possible, mistakes do occur.  If there is a store posted here that is indeed open please lets of know so that we may remove it from this list and add it to our database of bookstores.  You may post the correction in the comments below or email me at troy@aalbc.com.

Our database of bookstores can be made available to anyone interested in posting it on their website, with a single line of code.  Email me at troy@aalbc.com if you are interested.

Here is a related article: Top Ten Reasons Why African American Bookstores Are Closing by Gwen Richardson

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