Black-owned bookstores in the U.S. are beacons to their communities and beyond, but they’ve also long been portals to possibility: The first Black book exchange was run by abolitionist David Ruggles in Lower Manhattan. Here, some fantastic stores from across the country, as well as reading suggestions from the proprietors.
Cafe con Libros
Brooklyn, New York
This cozy bookstore, offering espresso and tea, is run by Kalima DeSuze and has a wide selection from the Black literary canons. It is located in historic Crown Heights, a neighborhood known for its revivalist architecture.
Kindred, Octavia E. Butler
A Black woman living in 1970s Los Angeles suddenly finds herself on an antebellum-era Maryland plantation.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Garbo Hearne and her husband Archie established Pyramid in 1988. The bookstore, also a gallery dedicated to Black artists, is located in the historic Dunbar district. Though Little Rock isn’t typically associated with Art Deco, Dunbar has a sizeable collection, as well as a rich history of civil rights leaders and African American institutions.
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
A clear-eyed account of the efforts of the Equal Justice Initiative and its fight to end mass incarceration.
Los Angeles, California
Located in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall, this shop, run by Malik Muhammad, stocks contemporary and rare titles, but it’s also a great stop for gifts such as calendars, mugs and tote bags.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James
In 2019, this sprawling fantasy novel was named a finalist in the National Book Award for Fiction.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Abbigail Glen started her mobile bookstore, which pops up in coffee shops and other locations around Charlotte, in 2019. Committed to diverse content, Glen offers a wide variety of books that she transports around town in her car.
All Boys Aren't Blue, George M. Johnson
For young adults, this book of essays is about the difficulties and joys of being black and queer.
Durham, North Carolina
Owner Victoria Scott-Miller started Liberation Station to promote literacy and ensure that children from marginalized communities are given a voice. While technically a pop-up, it has permanent outposts at Duke Gardens—one of Durham’s top attractions—and at Nolia Family + Coffee, a kid-focused café with ethically sourced beans.