What a volcanic spike in race relations we've experienced since the widely watched heinous murder of George Floyd. Every area of people activity has been effected; even the book industry. I was just on a call with about 12 other Black owned booksellers around the country last week and we were all reflecting on the massive amount of orders we received for books on how to be an ally, the Black experience or children's books to better prepare the next generation. Here's a list of our top ten best sellers during that period:
Best Seller AntiRacist titles after protests in June 1, 2020
1. White Fragility
2. How to be an AntiRacist
3. New Jim Crow
4. Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
5. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
6. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
7. Opening to Spirit by Caroline Shoa Arewa
8. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot
9. Malcolm X, Autobiography by Alex Haley
10. Just Mercy
Right at the top was "White Fragility." Judging from our sales figures it is clear that a large number of people are looking to change or at least seek out additional information about behaviors that have contributed to a disturbing problem. We also received beautiful comments in the orders asking for more titles that would assist in re-orienting the mindset. To that end, here are some new titles released below for adults and children:
For more of the classics, see below:
The requests for institutional partnerships poured in as well, and they have been quite creative. One school district decided to purchase a copy of "Stamped: Racism, AntiRacism and You" for every student and teacher. The team adjusted its entire curriculum around the book. They changed their back to school program in record time so that September's back to school program would be more relevant for the students. A law firm decided to start a book club for their offices around the world on the books "White Fragility" and "How to be an AntiRacist." Some schools used a curated list of books on the Black experience and racial tolerance as a fund raiser. One community member decided to form a small group for independent outreach and bought and giftwrapped books to students with a special note that read in part "Noone is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..."
Black Authors got their start at Black Bookstores
We are grateful for the support. We had to hire community members, create a software interface and incorporate a drop-shipment strategy to help us keep up with the pace. It was truly an historic moment to reflect upon. Some of the comments in the book orders were adamantly against buying books at Amazon for various reasons which included some detailed on a blogpost by Troy Johnson,, owner of AALBC. There is also more info found about the movement in a book called "How to Resist Amazon".
That Black booksellers have reaped a harvest from the book buying surge is fitting due to the nature of the protests. Many of the titles that are being requested at one time were only sold or were first sold solely at Black owned bookstores. I've heard many an African American author share that Black Bookstores were the only stores that would carry their work BEFORE they became well known. Some of the authors include: Tina McElroy Ansa, Kimberla Lawson Roby, and LA Banks. All three have become New York Times best selling authors. Banks went on record when she did a recorded book signing at Afriware found on Youtube here to say that "we have to keep our Black Bookstores alive. ... don't go to Amazon and Borders and all that. ...try to come here first... When I first began, I wasn't being carried in Barnes and Noble, Borders and Walmart, they weren't friendly to us. When I began I went to Caribou Books, ... now they're gone. When I go around the country I stop first at [Black owned bookstores]. It was a big fight all the time [with my publisher].. We have to have a place where we can talk..." These best selling authors had to get their start somewhere and Black Booksellers saw the spark and hand sold the books at the beginning. We invested in our authors with the hope that others would read their work. Being a best selling author has to grow from somewhere, and that somewhere was with Black Owned Booksellers. We are proud to hold this place and understand the importance of the role we played to keep our history and our stories in circulation. Let this moment in time be recorded as one that acknowledged the importance of the foundational structure of literature that records the stories of the Black community.
Nzingha Nommo is the author of this blog post. She is the owner of Afriware Books, Co founded in 1993. For more about her, click here.
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