It’s Time to Support African American Bookstores and Booksellers

By Denise Turney

A bounty of changes have been impacting the book industry, particularly African American bookstores and booksellers. For example, online booksellers are moving as many books out of their warehouses as some brick and mortar booksellers, at times more. Self-publishing has taken off to the point where major book publishers like Simon & Schuster have entered the arena. Additionally, in a matter of seconds, book readers can locate and download their favorite books on mobile devices, desktop computers or laptops. While these and other changes offer convenience to book readers, they also offer challenges to African American bookstores.

African American Booksellers in Harlem Dealing with Book Industry Changes

As reported in The Grio‘s July 23, 2012 ” Hue-Man, One of Harlem’s Literary Landmarks Closes” article, rising real estate costs and changes impacting the book industry saw one of America’s largest and independently owned African American bookstores close its doors. The bookstore, Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe, located in Harlem, had been serving as a literary lighthouse in the Harlem community for a decade.

The bookstore’s co-owner, Marva Allen, is reported in the article as saying, “Our lease is up. Our rent was going to go up. There is absolutely no question about it.” She continued, “The rate at which our rent would go up, our bookstore could not absorb that in new sales to be able to pay that.”

In addition to dealing with rising rent, Hue-Man found itself challenged with finding innovative ways to attract a significant number of book readers and book buyers to keep generating a profit. Allen, a business leader who remains hopeful that Hue-Man could resurface in the coming years, understands the challenge. In fact, the article reports that, “Allen says the publishing industry has also changed because of technology and will require the  creation of a new model and customer experience.”

Dallas Texas African American Bookseller Faces Changes

November 2012, Jokae’s an African American bookstore that has been serving the Dallas, Texas area since 1993, was set to close its doors. In the November 27, 2012 Dallas News’ JoKae’s African American Books to Close” article, Til Pettis, co-owner of the African American bookstore is reported as saying that, “The book sales were just not there.” Part of the bookstores’ declining sales were due to the fact that the shopping center where the store was located had started to see its storefronts going empty, business owners choosing to either close their doors or move their stores elsewhere.

Jokae’s was one of the African American bookstores where people in the community could go to receive tutoring support, hold book club meetings, catch up and chat with friends, attend writers’ group meetings and be entertained with radio broadcasts the bookstore’s owners hosted. Clearly, the owners of Jokae’s, one of several community focused African American bookstores, were creative and innovative, willing to try new strategies and activities to bring in book readers and book buyers.

Both Hue-Man and Jokae’s expressed plans to continue their businesses online. African American book readers, especially the African American book authors who gained ongoing support from the bookstores’ owners, can continue to support these and other African American bookstores online by purchasing their favorite novels, nonfiction books and coffee table books from these bookstore owners. After all, without ongoing support, what business or individual would make it?

Thank you for reading my blog. To learn what happens to Raymond, Brenda and the other characters in Love Pour Over Me, hop over to, B&, and get your copy of Love Pour Over Me today. And again I say – Thank You! Consider Love.

Sources: (Dallas News: JoKae’s African American Books to Close, November 27, 2012) (The Grio: Hue-Man, One of Harlem’s Literary Landmarks Closes, July 23, 2012)