Category Archives: reading

2015 Year End Thank You!

Coming in the New Year

newbookscreenshotThe biggest news for the new year is our website upgrade. We are redesigning AALBC.com from scratch, and we have the benefit of 18 years of content and experience, to bring you a world class website, celebrating Black culture through literature.

Without getting too technical, we are developing a customized CMS, which will allow us to present information about books and authors in a way that no other website can. Our new website is, mobile first, faster, more easily navigated, and less cluttered.

We now offer more flexible book buying options, including links to publishers (as with Just Us Books) and other independent booksellers, to bring you the best deals while offering publishers better opportunities to profit from their books. In some cases, as with the Go On Girl! Book Club’s reading list, commissions from book sales are donated to charity.

Speaking about book clubs, we are greatly increasing our coverage of book clubs, not only to help book clubs attract new members and share ideas without other clubs, but to help readers discover the great reads book clubs have researched and uncovered.

This is just the beginning; we still have a lot content to migrate and have not settled on a layout for our homepage, but you can review our progress, in real time, on our development website aalbc.org.

Our upgrade is a massive project, which we plan to complete in the spring 2016. Your ongoing support is crucial to the success of this effort, indeed to the survival of AALBC.com. Here are 5 things you can do to help:

  1. Share our content.
  2. Purchase your eNewsletter subscription.
  3. Buy books through our website.
  4. Share your thoughts in the comments on each page and join our discussion forums
  5. Keep reading!

The Power List & Huria Search Will Be Decommissioned

Decommissioned websitesHuria Search’s goal was to support and showcase independent Black owned content producers and book websites by making them more discoverable. The spirit of Huria Search will continue on AALBC.com. We have already migrated most of Huria Search’s content to AALBC.com, including our information on Black Bloggers, Black Newspapers, Black Magazines, Black Bookstores, Black Book Websites, with more to come.

The Power List was a collaborative effort to fill the void, left by Essence Magazine and Blackboard, for a bestsellers list covering African American literature. However, AALBC.com’s best selling books list, with our newly increased focus will be a suitable alternative next year. The new website design has made it possible to add a children’s bestselling books list and we will be able to produce a new list every month.

The freeing up of resources, previously dedicated to the Power List and Huria Search, will allow me to focus more intently on improving AALBC.com.

A Very Special Thanks to These AALBC.com Supporters

news-troyWhen one compiles a list like this, important people are invariably left off. To you I truly apologize. However I feel compelled to acknowledge a few people and institutions, who in 2015 lifted me spiritually, financially or through deed. Without your support AALBC.com would simply be impossible. In no particular order:

Dr. Elizabeth Nunez, Christopher D. Burns, Akashic Books, Kimberla Lawson Roby, SmileyBooks, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, The Center for Black Literature, Dr. David Colvin, Good2Go Publishing, Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, Robin Johnson, Connie Divers Bradley, Victoria Christopher Murray, Sherrie Young, Mike Cherichetti, Fertari Netsuziy, W. Paul Coates, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Lynda Johnson, Pamela Samuels Young, Gwen Richardson, Charisse Carney-Nunes, Queens Public Library, Baruch College, Kam Williams, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Carol Taylor, HICKSON, Google, Martha Kennerson, M. D. Williams, Robert Fleming, Rita Williams-Garcia, Tony & Yvonne Rose, Ramunda & Derrick Young, Jamie Blatman, Kalamu ya Salaam, HICKSON, Mike D’nero, Bernard Timberlake II, Cordenia Paige, HARRY BROWN, my “Bookends NYC” crew, anyone else I failed to recognize.

Finally to my wife and daughters who bear, involuntarily, the struggle I have taken on without complaint and with love. They support my effort, of celebrating Black culture through literature, simply because it is my dream.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!

Peace & Love,
Troy Johnson
AALBC.com Founder and Webmaster

news-black-pack-party-2013

AALBC.com Co-Hosts the Annual Black Pack Party Which will be Held in Chicago in 2016

 

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

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

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York


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)

Only 54 Black Owned Bookstores Remain in America

This is a follow up to an article, “Death of the Black Owned, Independent, Bookstore,” which was 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 our book section 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 and supporting a Black owned bookstore is physically impractical here are a list of websites you can support, including this one,

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
That Bookstore In Blytheville – Blytheville, 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 (relocated from Brooklyn, NY)
Best Books Rich Treasures – Tampa, 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 why they closed)

Afri-Ware Inc. – Maywood, IL

The Wild Fig Books – Lexington, KY (read why they reopened)

Community Book Center – New Orleans, LA

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

Everyone’s Place – Baltimore, MD
Wisdom Book Center – Gwynn Oak, MD
Cartel Cafe & Books Store – Oxon Hill, MD
Silver Spring Books – Silver Spring, 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
EyeSeeMe – University City, MO (opened June 2015)

Aframerican Book Store – Omaha, NE

La Unique African American Books & Cultural Center, Camden, NJ
African American Book Store – Hackensack, NJ
Source of Knowledge – Newark, 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
Official Connection Bookstore – Brooklyn NY

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

Black and Nobel – Philadelphia, PA
Color Book Gallery – Philadelphia, PA
Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop – Philadelphia, PA (The Nation’s Oldest bookstore)
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 January 27, 2016 the number of stores listed above is 67.  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 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.