2020 was a year that saw the racial disparities and divide that exists in the United States come front and center.
The coronavirus pandemic disproportionately killed more Black Americans and Black businesses struggled and were less likely to be eligible for funding from the Paycheck Protection Program.
StudyBreaks.com says that Black-owned bookstores are “often essential community institutions” whose survival is more important than ever.
“The popularity of Black-owned bookstores usually coincides with social movements,” posits the site. “The Black Power Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s saw an increased interest in African American literature and culture. During this time, these were spaces that functioned not only as bookstores but as havens for the communities they served.”
Shopping at a Black-owned bookstore doesn’t just support a Black-owned business, it supports Black authors whose books are often manufactured in smaller batches even when distributed by a major publishing house. Further, being located in their communities allows avid readers to meet and greet with local and national Black writers.
Janet Webster Jones is the daughter of a librarian and a retired educator from Detroit Public Schools. She entered the bookselling business in 1989 after teaching a class about Egyptian history.
Source Booksellers originally opened inside the Spiral Collective, a shared space with three other women-owned businesses that moved in 2013 across the street to its current home. The store is greatly respected for its well-stocked shelves on a variety of topics including history and culture, health and well-being, as well as books by and about women.
Founded in 2013, Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center is located just a block away from Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business. The store aims to be a place where journalists, writers, students, and their professors can gather to find a “spot of solace in the heart.” The store regularly hosts author readings, book clubs, and events for children.
In addition to their book sales, Black Stone sells personal products for their mostly African American consumer base including clothing, oils, incense, and health and beauty products.
This store specializes in new and gently used adult and children’s books. Some of their most popular topics include self-help, Black consciousness, spirituality, urban fiction, and biographies.
The store also hosts several family book expo events that feature local and national Black authors who do readings for fans. The store also sells personal products like mugs, soaps, and games. Detroit Book City prides itself on its collection of rare, hard-to-find, or out of print African-American books.
“Hood books” is the nickname for modern urban books, many of which are independently published. Founded by Michel Moore, herself a self-published author, Moore opened the store to provide customers with access to these books that get less marketing than other African American titles.
The store opened in June of 2016, but prior to that was open in a flea market in Warren for 11 years. Moore told BlacDetroit magazine that she wanted a place where she could “offer poetry, karaoke, space for book club meetings, book signings and serve food without disturbing the other businesses around me.” Moore is still writing “hood books” and her daughter is also a bestselling author.
One of Detroit’s oldest bookstores, God’s World was founded by Larry Robinson in 1979. The store has provided a platform for Christian customers, recording artists, and authors to purchase and sell their wares.
The store is synonymous with gospel music and Christian events. It is known in Detroit as “the place for all your inspirational needs.”
The Shrine of the Black Madonna was founded in Detroit over 65 years ago. The church has always been focused on offering relevant outreach ministries, social and political action strategies, and cultural programs that are African-centered.
The bookstore exists in a neighboring space near the church and after experiencing a decline in sales, will be revamped in 2021. The historic church and bookstore is a rich, cultural institution in the city which allows them to tell the story of the city in addition to selling books that will appeal to their consumers. Most employees at the store are older church members who themselves are like walking encyclopedias.
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