OPINION: Support Black-owned bookstores across the country


Hailey Stessman

For your next purchase of books, try to make an effort to order from Black-owned bookstores from across the country. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

(acting as part two to the Black stories piece)

Entering an independent bookstore is like stepping into another plane of existence. The second you pass through the threshold time ceases to exist, the outside world becomes an enigma and any other responsibility vanishes from one’s consciousness. Between staggering stacks of books and the possible cat that roams the shelves, the experience is nowhere near as spectacular as browsing your local Barnes and Noble. Leaving an independent bookstore with a book clutched to your chest is an unmatched feeling; the excitement of finding a new, or beloved, title still coursing through your veins.

In the past year, there has been a surge of support for Black-owned businesses fueled by a desire to buy from small businesses and Black creators. In the context of bookstores, Black-owned bookstores make up 6% of independent bookstores in the United States. Although we may not live in a climate where traveling across the country is safe, there is a beautiful thing that allows us to support these bookstores from the comfort of our own homes: the Internet.

To start you off on your book shopping endeavors, here are a couple of Black-owned bookstores in the Midwest where you can directly place an order.

Aframerican Bookstore

Omaha, Nebraska

Nestled in North Omaha, Aframerican Bookstore, established in 1990, offers a wide selection of new releases, self-published titles, and mixed media on topics such as religion, history, and social issues from Black perspectives. People can browse through their online catalog and ship their order directly to their home. Aframerican Bookstore also provides an option for orders to be sent to incarcerated individuals in U.S. prisons.

Aya Coffee and Books

Kansas City, Missouri 

Centering their focus on cultivating a community of inclusion and cultural diversity in Kansas City’s East side, Aya Coffee and Books offers titles on anti-racism, Black spirituality, and Black figures in Kansas City history. The bookstore currently runs as a pop-up shop but is quickly on the path to opening their first brick-and-mortar store. Through Bookshop.org, a site where you can browse local bookstores in one convenient place, you can search through their collection for a direct order.

With a quick search, you can find a plethora of Black-owned bookstores in almost every state!

If you are unable to buy directly from a bookstore, check out your local library for some titles written by Black authors! While you may not be incorporating your own funds for each book, public libraries pay attention to the types of books patrons check out and base their purchases for their collection off of what patrons gravitate towards. Thus, libraries will make an effort to support and buy more titles from Black authors to diversify their selection!

Happy reading!