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 we’d 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.  Web sites that focus on Black books are suffering.  Attendance at book fairs, conferences and festivals are down as well. Some events have even been canceled 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 minuscule 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
Expressions Books and Frames – Baltimore, MD
Jay Books – Baltimore, MD
Urban Moon Books: The Indie Author Outlet – Chesapeake, VA
Wisdom Book Center – Gwynn Oak, MD
Cartel Cafe & Books Store – Oxon Hill, MD
Silver Spring Books – Silver Spring, MD
Urban Knowledge Bookstore – Temple Hills, 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
Black Book World – Killeen, 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 the 1970s by Yvonne Blake)

As of April 26, 2017 the number of stores listed above is 72.  I have added or removed stores from this list since the article was originally published in April of 2014.

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.

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.