My Three “Can’t Wait To Visit” Black Bookstores In 2023
Three years ago, during the height of the pandemic, I set an ambitious goal of visiting 2020 bookstores by 2030. Among those on my list are a number of stores that focus on Black oriented themes and authors.
In celebration of Black History Month, here are three that I’ve deemed a must visit in 2023.
Mahogany Books (Washington D.C. and Oxen Hills, MD)
Mahogany Books has generated quite a bit of attention in the D.C. area and nationwide with its focus on books by and about the African Diaspora. Established in 2007 as an online store by husband and wife duo Derrick and Ramunda Young, this Black-owned, family run independent bookstore is known for its broad selection of carefully selected books as well as high profile author events.
In 2017, the couple opened their very first physical location in Washington DC. Four years later, amid the pandemic, they opened their National Harbor location in Oxen Hills MD. The store has received extensive media attention in publications like Black Enterprise, Vanity Fair Magazine, Essence Magazine, Forbes, Oprah Magazine, TIME Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and many other media outlets regarding their commitment to Black books.
Harriett’s Books and Ida’s Books Philadelphia, PA and Collingswood, NJ
I’ve had the good fortune of corresponding with Jeanine Cook, founder of two iconic bookstores for those with an insatiable appetite of Black History. In fact, I featured in a very popular interview piece last year for Black Books, Black Minds.
First was Harriet’s Bookshop (named after the famed Black woman figure Harriet Tubman), which she opened in the historically white, working class Philadelphia neighborhood known as Fishtown in February of 2020. Six weeks later, the store shut down due to the pandemic. That’s when Cook went into relentless overdrive to lift the store out of this tough stretch through a direct campaign to customers and online sales. The business not only survived but began building momentum towards a major bookstore presence in the area.
In April 2021, buoyed by a GoFundMe campaign, she purchased a permanent home for Harriett’s. That same year in August, a sister store known as Ida’s Bookshop, named after the journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, was birthed a short distance away in Collingswood, New Jersey,
Cook has described Harriett’s as a “a bookshop meets an art gallery meets a monument.” Word on the street is that book selections include those from such iconic Black-women figures as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Baldwin Books, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans has long been a favorite place of mine to visit largely because of its jazz and blues music scene. But during my next visit, the focal point of my attention will be an excursion to Baldwin Bookstore, which has the aim of eliminating mass incarceration through reading and literacy. Along with the store opening in February of 2021, the Baldwin & Co. Foundation was established in pursuit of this cause.
The store is the brainchild of D.J Johnson who returned back to the area a few years prior after working for the FDIC in Washington, D.C. A native of the New Orleans Marigy district, he wanted to plant seeds of prosperity in his local community through the power of books.
Featuring 2,400 sq. ft. of sales space with 10,000 titles, the store according to a friend who visited last year features a striking mural of James Baldwin, the store’s namesake. The store also has a cafe with specialty espresso drinks. Upon upon hearing this, this raised my excitement around an impending visit up another notch.
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