Man Looking at Malcolm X Books

Source: Cheryl Chenet / Getty

Statistics show that two-thirds of Black-owned bookstores closed between 2002 and 2012, and of the few hundred stores that stayed above water, just 67 remained at the end of January 2016. Fortunately, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) has observed a renaissance of sorts, with new Black-owned bookstores opening nationwide, and even some previously closed locations reopening their doors.

And thank the lit gods. With gentrification seemingly swallowing legacies whole, folks are left searching for “an oasis in the midst of a big white snowstorm,” as Shirikiana Gerima, co-owner of Washington, D.C.’s Sankofa Video Books & Cafe so aptly said to Publisher’s Weekly in 2016. “People want to have a place to go to celebrate and investigate Black heritage. [Black bookstores] are places for people to be restored and rejuvenated.”

Keeping in the spirit of Black History Month, CASSIUS compiled a short list of Black-owned bookstores across the country, so open your wallets. We finna pour back into the culture.

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse — Philadelphia

Located At: 2578 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Opened In: 2015

Owned By: Ariell Johnson

“I opened Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse to … create a community comic book store, a community geek space. I got the idea for the shop when a coffee shop across the street from my local comic book shop closed. In the beginning, my goal was to create a similar kind of coffee shop. She had a dope, warm environment in there that I wanted to recreate. As I’ve gotten older and become more aware, I’ve used this platform to promote inclusivity in comics and other forms of geek culture.”— Johnson to Philly Mag

Ancestry Books — Minneapolis

Located At: 1104 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55411

Opened In: 2014

Owned By: Chaun Webster and Verna Wong

“We need more spaces to read, to build community, to organize and build power. We are looking to add to the conversation.”— Webster via 2 Speakease Blog

Cafe con Libros — Brooklyn

Located At: 724 Prospect Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11216

Opened In: 2017

Owned By: Kalima Desuze

“I wanted a space that was explicitly feminist. So many of our spaces are explicitly and implicitly male dominated. Men take up so much space all the time and I think it’s really important for us to say this is ours, and that’s OK.”— Desuze to AM New York

Marcus Books — Oakland

Located At:  762 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Opened In: 1981

Owned By: Karen, Greg and Tamiko Johnson

“The opportunity was brought forth for me to ignite with people who are good. We can’t be without a Marcus Books. I’ve been working in the store’s Oakland location, and it’s like being in a jewelry box.” Karen to Hoodline


Revolution Books — Harlem

Located At: 437 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue, New York, NY 10037

Opened In: 1978

Owned By: Not-for-Profit

“RB is a bookstore with literature, history, science, art, philosophy, and revolutionary theory… a place of discovery and engagement. Scientific and poetic, wrangling and visionary. A bookstore at the center of a movement for revolution. The world today, with all its horrors, holds the potential for something far better. To unlock that – at the foundation of RB – is the most advanced scientific theory and leadership for an actual revolution for the emancipation of humanity.” — RB Mission Statement

Sankofa Video Books & Cafe — D.C.

Located At: 2714 Georgia Ave, Washington, D.C. 200001

Opened In: 1997

Owned By: Haile and Shirikiana Gerima

“We started by getting books from African World Books, which is a wonderful wholesaler not far from us, in Baltimore. We just went to the warehouse and looked around goggle-eyed at all the great books they had and then brought them back to D.C. This was all we knew in terms of the industry at the time: we knew the books that we loved, that shaped us, and that’s pretty much what we began to fill the space with.” — Shirikiana to ABA

Underground Bookstore — Chicago

Located At: 1727 E 87th Street, Chicago, IL 60617

Opened In: 1992

Owned By: Brother Yoel

“The Underground Bookstore carries novels, history, health and wellness, religious, and many other genres of books. Including well known black authors like, Omar Tyree, Maya Angelou, Zane, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Eric Gerome Dickey, and Walter Mosley.” — Underground Bookstore Website

Wild Fig Books & Coffee — Lexington

Located At: 726 N Limestone, Lexington, KY 40508

Opened In: 2011

Owned By: Ron Davis & Crystal Wilkinson

“We’re artists who own a business, and we’re trying to figure out how to make that work,” Wilkinson said, noting that writers have a natural affection for bookstores. “We couldn’t imagine ourselves, as much as we like ice cream, having the same passion for owning an ice cream parlor or a tire-changing place or a laundromat, although we probably would make more money.” — Wilkinson to

(There’s more! Check out the African American Literature Book Club’s directory of Black-owned, independent bookstores.)

Book Ends is CASSIUS’ hub for all things lit(erature). Check back each week for book-related content.