Considering the recent anti racist activism in the U.S. and across the globe, the importance of supporting Black businesses is plain. As people wonder what they can do to stand with the anti-racist movement and educate themselves, choosing to buy at Black-owned bookshops in the UK is a must. Below is a list to get your started.
When writing this list, I looked to online sources including the UK Black Writer's Forum, a news portal for UK-based African Caribbean authors. The Forum's list of Black-owned businesses was invaluable in researching bookstores to feature.
According to the Guardian, sales of books that educate readers on systemic racism and anti-Blackness are surging since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis. This is a positive indication that the world is hungry for Black voices and allies want to learn more about they can help. However, the Guardian's data was based on figures from huge online retailer Amazon.
Although we all know Amazon is a super convenient platform, supporting small businesses is more important than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis. According to research from The Book Seller and writer development charity Spread The Word, small presses fear being completely wiped out by autumn. Of the 72 businesses surveyed, 57% reported they had no cashflow to support their business, and 85% said that they'd seen sales drop by more than half.
Sadly, as I learnt during the course of my research, many sellers that deserved a spot on this list are no longer in operation, which clearly points to a bigger issue about brick-and-mortar bookstores but, more specifically, Black-owned bookstores. With this in mind, next time you're looking to buy a book, think closely about where your money can be best spent.
Below is a handful of bookstores that operate brick-and-mortar stores as well as online ones too.
New Beacon Books
New Beacon Books in North London was founded back in 1966 by John La Rose and his partner Sarah White. At the time, it was the UK’s first and only Black publisher and specialist bookshop. New Beacon Books are now one of the country's leading distributors of books including literature, poetry, children's books, non-fiction, and history from Africa, Caribbean, Asia, African America, Europe, South America, and Britain.
Books Of Africa
Books Of Africa is a bookshop in London's East Dulwich which provides reading for children, young adults, and adults with a focus on the African continent. This stores offers works from all sorts of areas including history, literature, politics, and culture.
Pempamsie translates to 'unity is strength.' One of the many aims of the shop, which has four branches across London and has been trading for 20 years, is to support the African community in London. They stock not only reading materials but also beauty and healthcare products.
A truly charming independent bookshop and cafe in Sevenoaks, Kent, this shop is a must for all of your reading needs.
Round Table Books
Round Table Books, based in Brixton, is a new bookshop that began life as a pop up. It was such a huge hit that it quickly gained a massive following and now has a permanent presence as well as an online store.
Pepukayi Books are specialists in books that are African focused and celebrate African culture in the UK. The business is run by Elder Pepukayi who's long been (and remains) active in the African Liberation Struggle in the UK. The shop is based in The Maa Maat Cultural Centre in Tottenham and has an active online bookshop too.
My Book Basket
Although mainly focused on children's books, this retailer also has a section for grown ups too. Proud purveyors of books from across the African diaspora, Britain, America, the Caribbean, and beyond, My book Basket believes that their selection caters to the masses, stating "Everyone, regardless of cultural background, will find something to fall in love with."
Below is a handful of bookstores that operate predominantly online.
No Ordinary Bookshop
No Ordinary Bookshop was set up by Angel Miller, a mum and grandma who passionately believes in the social, emotional, and personal wellbeing of all children, starting with their education. Miller was shocked at how impossible it was to find books for her children that would mirror their experience of the world. There were no Black princesses or superheroes to be found in bookshops at the time. Miller turned her disappointment into action and started No Ordinary Bookshop, which provides diverse books to help children understand the diverse world we live in.
African Book Collective
African Books Collective (ABC) is an African owned, worldwide marketing and distribution outlet for books from Africa, including scholarly, literature and children's books. It's a UK-registered non-profit that seeks to earn money for its publishers.
Book Love is an award-winning collective comprised of of educators, artists, musicians, creatives, and families working in collaboration to showcase and bring together multicultural writing. As well as being an incredible travelling service, they have a brilliant online shop that's definitely worth a look.
UK Black Writers Forum
OK, not technically a book seller but this forum hosts all sort of incredible events and also has a monthly book club subscription that funnels 15% of its profits into services that aid those suffering with mental health issues and people serving time in prison.
As mentioned above, the UK Black Writers Forum website provided much of the information I need for this list and is a must-follow for those who want to know more about Black-owned businesses and how to support them.