The Free Black Women's Library

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The Free Black Women's Library is an organization that hosts a mobile library based primarily in New York City, and is focused on sharing literature written by Black women. It was founded by the Nigerian American Ola Ronke Akinmowo in Brooklyn in 2015.


The library was founded by Ola Ronke Akinmowo in 2015. Initially, Akinmowo used social media to ask people to send her any books written by Black women.[1] After some weeks, Akinmowo received about 100 books for her project. The library's holdings grew to about 450 books in 2016,[2] and to about 1000 books in 2018.[3] One reason for this growth was because the library required visitors to donate a book in order to borrow them.[3]

Akinmowo's work in developing this mobile library also served as inspiration for other mobile libraries focused on specific groups, such as Pilipinx American Library.[4]

Pop-up libraries[edit]

Events through the Free Black Women's Library typically involve Akinmowo physically bringing the book collection to different places, such as street corners and community spaces. Initially, this was done using a bike trailer when the collection was small, but is now typically done by car with the help of friends or community groups.[2] The collection includes works from many authors, such as such as Octavia Butler, Audre Lorde, Monique W. Morris, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison.[2] The organization hosts temporary libraries in different neighborhoods of New York City on a monthly basis, such as Bed-Stuy, and has also been present at the NY Art Book Fair.[5][6] It has also hosted libraries in other locations around the United States, such as in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Detroit. In addition, the library hosts events such as film screenings, workshops and live performances.[3] The library continues to maintain a policy that visitors who come to the mobile library to take a book should also leave one written by a Black woman.[5]

In 2019, Asha Grant founded the Los Angeles chapter of the Library, which continues to operate in a mobile capacity through direct donations and trade at pop-up locations, or at selected drop-off centers that "actively support marginalized communities."[7] In July 2020, Grant announced a permanent space in Los Angeles, a bookstore named Salt Eaters in Inglewood, "where young Black girls, women, femmes and gender-nonconforming people never have to search for stories that represent them, because they will be front and center".[8]


  1. ^ Atwell, Ashleigh (28 February 2018). "Bed-Stuy Pop-Up Library Focuses On Black Women Writers". Bed-Stuy, NY Patch. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Bracy, Emma (5 October 2016). "The Free Black Women's Library gives away books and black girl magic". Splinter. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Pop-up library spotlights works by African-American women". NEWS12 Brooklyn. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  4. ^ Bai, Stephanie (17 October 2017). "A bi-coastal pop-up library wants to introduce readers to Filipino-American literature". NBC News. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b Greenberger, Maximilíano Durón and Alex (21 September 2018). "All Booked Up: Printed Matter's NY Art Book Fair Teems with Zines, Scenes, and Sanctuary". ARTnews. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  6. ^ Cunniffe, Eileen (25 September 2018). "The Free Black Women's Library: Cultural Activism in Motion - Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly". NPQ. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  7. ^ Adams, Char. "This Traveling Library Is Making Sure "Black Women's Literature Has the Place It Deserves"". The Oprah Magazine. Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  8. ^ Beech, Chace (23 July 2020). "She dreamed of a Black-owned bookstore in Inglewood. Now, she's going to run one". LA Times. Retrieved 23 July 2020.

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