By Aiden Howie
After George Floyd’s murder by the police in Minnesota, many Americans turned to books to better educate themselves about race. As sales of books on the subject surged nationwide, Minnesotan Dionne Sims—who identifies as Black and queer—quickly realized there were no Black-owned bookstores in her state. She decided to do something about it. She started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Black Garnet Books, and she quickly surpassed her goals.
In 2020, Dionne launched her bookstore online. She also hosts pop-ups in the Twin Cities. Black Garnet Books is focused primarily on adult and young adult contemporary literature by Black and racially diverse authors. “We’re incredibly excited to introduce everyone to underrepresented voices and stories, new and old, that support and affirm the cultures they’re connected to,” Dionne said.
Dionne is in good company. She joins several female-owned bookstores throughout the country that are committed to elevating Black literature and culture.
Brain Lair Books
Based in South Bend, Indiana, Brain Lair Books strives to help customers find their place in the world through books. Its goal is for people—especially children and teens—to see themselves reflected in what they read.
Founder: Kathy Burnette
Photo: Brain Lair Books
Photo: Greg Bollinger / TulsaPeople
Fulton Street Books and Coffee
Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fulton Street Books and Coffee elevates stories about the life experiences of people of color and marginalized communities. Its mission is to offer a communal space and increase literacy.
Founder: Onikah Asamoa-Caesar
Based in Atlanta, Good Books combines the wonder of books and Black culture. Its mission is to support Blackness, its customers and the community. Good Books offers online shopping as well as a pop-up bookstore.
Founders: Katie and Katherine Mitchell
Photo: Lynsey Weatherspoon / NPR
Photo: Matthew Swiader
The Lit. Bar
The Lit. Bar is the only independent bookstore in the Bronx. Its founder had the idea to open a bookstore/wine bar while protesting to save the Barnes and Noble in her borough and recently realized her dream with a permanent location in Mott Haven.
Founder: Noëlle Santos
Located in Washington, DC and Silver Spring, Maryland, Loyalty Bookstores is a Black and queer bookseller working to diversify the book industry. It focuses on antiracist reading through its book clubs and booklists. Currently, both storefronts are closed; online ordering and contactless pickup are available.
Founder: Hannah Oliver Depp
Photo: Loyalty Bookstores
Photo: Semicolon Bookstore
Based in Chicago, Semicolon is a bookstore and art gallery. Its focus is on community literacy and nurturing the connections between literature, art and the pursuit of knowledge. Shop the store online or visit the brick-and-mortar store in person Tuesday through Saturday.
Founder: Danielle Mullen
Shades of Afrika
Located in Long Beach and Corona, California, Shades of Afrika offers natural hair care, oils and holistic products in addition to books. It aims to be a cultural center and is dedicated to the betterment of the community.
Founder: Renee Quarles
Photo: Shades of Afrika
Photo: Sister’s Uptown
Based in New York City, Sister’s Uptown is a bookstore and culture center that serves as a community staple and positive source of information and ideas in its Washington Heights neighborhood. It currently offers limited store hours three days a week and online ordering.
Founders: Janifer and Kari Wilson
Do you own or support a Black-women-owned bookstore not mentioned here? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list!
About the author: Aiden Howie is My Founder Story’s social media and community coordinator. She’s dedicated to sharing the stories of women business owners and amplifying their voices. She’s passionate about fighting for equality and the rights of BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, as well as ending hunger. She’s currently attending college in Florida, studying elementary education and Spanish.