- Written By 10Melanin Team
10 Black-Owned Bookstores In New York
Physical bookstores are a dying breed, with ebooks and Amazon making them available almost instantly, more and more bookstores are closing down. Therefore, it's even more important that we get out and support Black-owned bookstores specifically, as some of them have been in business for 40 + years. Many have evolved over the years, making sure that books aren't the only thing they offer, allowing them to have multiple customer bases, whether this is adding a coffee shop or offering events. Also, something you can't buy online is product knowledge, mastering this skill has allowed these stores to remain open and keep customers coming back. So, next time you're looking for something to read and you're in the state of New York, visit one of these local Black-owned bookstores and you may just find something you can't buy online for your growing bookshelf.
10. Blenheim Hill Books
Owning a bookshop wasn't always the plan for Cheryl Clarke and her partner but, their love for books and the fact that Cheryl is a published poet, made it an obvious move for them. After buying a house in Hobart, NY in 2005 and falling in love with the five Bookshops already established in the small Village, they knew they found their new home. It would be four years later when one of the stores became available to buy, that they jumped at the opportunity. They saw the bookstore as a place to reflect their own interests so, over time they have developed a wide collection of books that include; poetry, Women’s history, Women’s studies, and other historical areas.
9. Yorbua Book Center
The Yoruba Book Center is a both a bookstore and record store, founded by two brothers Roger and Rudy Francis all the way back 1968. The name Yoruba comes from a large group of people who live in/ or have West African heritage, specifically from Nigeria, Togo and Benin. The store is aptly named due to its genre of stock, which is heavily related to African spirituality and culture. So, if you're looking to get in touch with the Motherland or learn something new about African culture, this is the place for you. Alongside the books, the Francis brothers could very well own the biggest vinyl collection of African music in New York, a must visit for any avid record collector because this place treasure trove!
8. Grandma's Place
Grandma's place is a story of how community and books can change peoples lives. When owner Dawn Harris-Martine (better known by her customers as Grandma Dawn) was younger, her mother while working 1 of her 3 jobs would drop her and her siblings off at the library, unknowingly fuelling Grandma's love for books. After retiring as an elementary teacher in her 60's, she opened the bookshop / toy store to provide a fun but educational place for kids in the Harlem area. However during the pandemic, Dawn has struggled to stay afloat like a lot of us, but luckily the community came together and set up a go fund me page and raised nearly 4 times the amount she needed for bills. So, don't take this Harlem institution for granted and show your continued support by dropping by and shopping
7. Zawadi Books
Located in Buffalo, Zawadi Books is a bookstore that specializes in selling books by and for the African diaspora. The store holds a range of events such as author readings and book discussions along with housing a reading room and storytelling resource center. With over 40 years in business and remaining one of America's longest running Black-owned bookstores, its owners (Sharon and Kenneth Holley) and staff remain well informed and welcoming if you have any questions during your visit.
6. Cups + Books
Cups and Books is a Black family business, both owned and operated indie cafe and bookstore located Brooklyn, NY. They've unsegregated their bookshelves by mixing both national best sellers bookshelves with books by African Diaspora authors, to represent their ethos that books and sharing stories can bring people together. You'll find some real gems here, not just with their Black Sci-Fi and comic books section but, also with within their cafe. Here you can buy some Cafe Kreyol, which is sustainable sourced coffee from the Carribbean.
5. Revolution Books
Bull Shot Book Club
Revolution Books is a bookstore not afraid to fight for whats right. Located on the only street appropriate, Malcolm X Blvd, this bookstore is more than what it first seems. Specialising not only in stocking books on left wing politics, revolutions and anti-fascism but, upon your visit you may witness a protest, discussion group, political art or other radical events. So, whatever cause you believe in; BLM, Women's rights or Socialism, spend your money here and support a bookstore that believes in it too.
4. The Schomburg Shop
This bookstore is the anomaly in the list, while the shop isn't specifically Black-owned, every purchase made goes towards funding Black culture research by the New York Public Libary. The Schomburg Center is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African-American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. So, it's only fitting that the store reflects this by featuring a wide range of products relating to the global Black experience and the promotion of Black excellence.
3. Sister's Uptown
Nurturing minds, hearts and souls since 2000, Sister's Uptown is not just a bookstore but also a cultural centre. Founder Janifer Wilson saw an opportunity to bring a positive change to a crumbling community, while also bringing awareness to gifted African-American authors. Since opening this indie bookstore, Wilson has been able to provide valuable resources for the local area and become a vital part of the everyday life of New Yorkers. Along with advocating the motto “knowledge is key”, the bookstore prides itself in offering an emotional, spiritual and loving environment where all are welcomed.
2. Cafe con Libros
Cafe con Libros (coffee with books) is an intersectional Feminist community that sells both books and coffee, based in Brooklyn. Through their range of books, programming and great coffee, they are able to create a vibrant and safe space where everyone; especially female identifying people, can feel affirmed and celebrated. You can also join their monthly feminist book club that highlights books only written by, for and about women or their womxn of color book club that provides a dedicated space for women of color.
1. The Lit Bar
Opening in 2019, the Lit Bar is currently the only bookstore serving the 1.5 million people of the Bronx area. The shop prides itself on encouraging curious and new readers, while creating a sense of community by also welcoming gatherings and get togethers. When they say 'Lit' they mean it, as not only will you find brilliant and diverse literature here, but you can also get lit in the drunk sense at their wine bar. What better way to shop and discuss books than to have a glass of wine at the same time!