Here are 7 Great Black-Owned Bookstores To Check Out in NYC
Photo Credit: Thought Catalog

Photo Credit: Thought Catalog

Here are 7 Great Black-Owned Bookstores To Check Out in NYC

black owned business , newyork
Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones Jul 7, 2021

You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who hasn’t heard of the major bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, or the king of used and rare books, The Strand. But there’s something special about throwing your dollars behind a business that doesn’t have the unlimited resources. So if you’re a bookworm looking to support black-owned bookstores while visiting New York City, here are seven to check out.

1. The Lit Bar

 

The name alone intrigues, and that’s the point. This Bronx- based shop opened in April 2019 and is owned by Noëlle Santos, an African-American and Puerto Rican woman born and bred in The Boogie Down.

You can read and imbibe at The Lit Bar, which seeks to “encourage curious readers and welcomes literary and community gatherings, while the wine bar connects the great pastimes of social sipping and introverted reading.”

Santos was inspired to open her business after discovering a pain point in The Bronx. Prior to the shop’s founding, there were no independent bookstores catering to Black and brown communities.

Coincidence? Probably not. The urgency to make certain resources available in New York’s poorest borough isn’t as present as it should be.

In addition to selling books, The Lit Bar hosts book launches and social events.

 

 

 

2. Sister's Uptown

Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center was launched by mother- daughter duo, Janifer and Kori Wilson, in 2007.

Fueled by the adage “knowledge is power,” they hoped to stimulate a neglected and overlooked community in Washington Heights.

Janifer explains, “we provide resources for members of the community to nurture their minds, hearts, and souls with present and past works of gifted African American authors and other great intellectuals, including masters of spoken word.”

3. The Schomburg Shop

 

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The Schomburg in Harlem is one of the most reputable centers for Black Studies in New York City, and its bookshop is a love song to everything black.

It was named a National Historical Landmark in 2017 and offers plenty of in store and online purchasing options.

According to the website, The Schomburg Shop sells “classic and contemporary books for adults and children, unique gifts, and exclusive collaborations and products designed for the Schomburg Center.”

4. Cafe Con Libros

 

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The owner of Café Con Libros, Kalima DeSuze, has often fielded questions about why a Black-owned store would have a name in Spanish. In fact, she dedicated a blog to this very subject, which can be read here.

DeSuze, an Afro-Latinx woman of Panamanian descent, is proud of who she is, but encounters obstacles as a person who straddles two worlds. In her blog, she points out that Black people aren’t a monolith; they are as varied in culture, political persuasion, and appearance as any other group.

“Black folx can be Latinx,” writes DeSuze. “We can and do speak Spanish. We can and do speak French. There is no pure way of being Black. It is worth repeating again: slaves were not only dropped off in North America. Our ancestors were enslaved in just about every country in the Caribbean and South America. We will never just be Black; it’s reductive and violent to erase whole parts of who we are or to actively exclude us.”

In addition to being Black, Latinx, and woman centered,  Café Con Libros is proudly feminist, but acknowledges the justified distrust some women of color feel towards the Feminist Movement and who it centers.

The website says, “we seek to advance and uplift stories of women and girls around the globe who are redefining the word feminist with everyday, ordinary, culturally informed acts of resistance and love.”

If chatting about complex subjects is your thing, check out the Feminist Book Club, which meets every Sunday of the month, and the Womxn of Color Book Club, which meets every fourth Sunday of the month.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Zawadi Books

 

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If you’re heading up to Buffalo, support Zawadi Books, founded by Sharon and Kenneth Holley in 1976.

The shop was originally called Harambee Books and Crafts, before being changed to Zawadi, which is Swahili for “gift.”

Zawadi Books, “specializes in materials that are by and about people of African descent. There are author readings, book discussions, a Reading Room, and a storytelling resource center.”

You’ll find some stellar black authors and intellects represented, from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. There’s a fine selection of titles for children, as well as non-book items like stationary and art.

If you’re looking for a book for yourself, or as a gift for somebody else, the friendly staff will help you find the perfect one.

 

 

6. Source of Knowledge

 

You’ll have to cross borderlines to get to Source of Knowledge in Newark, New Jersey, which is just a short drive or train ride away.

Founded in 1992, Source of Knowledge was conceived as a bookstore. Now it’s also a community center, geared towards educating black and brown children, and preparing them for the rocky road they will surely face in the years to come.

Source of Knowledge is true to its name, “creating space for young people to discover themselves, for students to dig deeper into Radical Black thought, and for local Newark artists to gather in community and love.”

7. Grandma's Place

 

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If you’ve got little ones, head over to Grandma’s Place, a bookstore and toy shop in Manhattan.

The founder, Dawn Martine, affectionately known as Grandma Dawn, was an educator for years, and, combined with her passion for toys, she opened a business with Black and brown children in mind.

Whether online or in person, you can purchase books and toys, which all play crucial roles in childhood development. Of note is the Ethnic Focus section, with books encouraging Black children to feel good in their skin.