African-American bookstores

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African-American bookstores, also known as black bookstores, are bookstores owned and operated by African Americans. These stores often, although not always, specialize in works by and about African Americans and their target customers are often African Americans. Although they are a variety of African-American business, African American bookstores have often been closely tied to radical political movements including Marxism, Black Power, and pan-Africanism.The first documented African-American bookstore was established by the abolitionist David Ruggles in 1834.[1] One of the earliest African-American bookstores to achieve national prominence was Lewis Michaux's National Memorial African Bookstore, which operated in Harlem from the early 1930s to the middle of the 1970s. Michaux's store doubled as a meeting place for black activists, including most famously Malcolm X.[2] The Black Power movement embraced black-owned bookstores in the 1960s and '70s as vehicles for promoting their ideology and creating radical political spaces in black communities across the United States.[3] By the 1990s, African-American bookstores earned significant attention from more politically moderate and business oriented media outlets such as the magazine Black Enterprise.[4] In the 2000s and 2010s, however, as independent bookstores of all kinds declined and bookstores chains and Amazon increasingly sold black-authored books, the number of African-American bookstores declined rapidly, dropping from over 250 to just over 70.[5][6]

Prominent Black-owned booksellers currently in business include Marcus Books in Oakland, the oldest black bookseller in the country, Everyone's Place in Baltimore, Eso-Won in Los Angeles, and Sankofa in Washington, D.C.

Prominent online Black booksellers include Mahogany Books and Hue-Man Bookstore, which formerly had brick-and-mortar storefronts in Denver, Colorado and in Harlem.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Underground Railroad". Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  2. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (1976-08-27). "Lewis Michaux, 92, Dies; Ran Bookstore in Harlem". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  3. ^ Davis, Joshua Clark. "Black-Owned Bookstores: Anchors of the Black Power Movement – AAIHS". Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  4. ^ Ltd, Earl G. Graves (1995-02-01). Black Enterprise. Earl G. Graves, Ltd.
  5. ^ "12 Stats on the State of Bookstores in America Today".
  6. ^ "Only 54 Black Owned Bookstores Remain in America". Blog of’s Founder & Webmaster. 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2017-02-19.