In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, so many of us took to checking our privilege and getting better educated on the extent of systemic and entrenched racism. One of the best ways to embrace learning about Black history and culture, and to continue to engage with these vital stories, is by reading works of literature, or non-fiction, written from the perspective of Black people.
And it's vital that we continue to do this well into the future. Just this week, lots of women in London called for more support for Black-owned hair shops after a black woman was ‘strangled’ by a shop worker in Peckham. The lack of safety protesters feel they have in public spaces is a testament to the fact we need to be constantly educating ourselves.
Black history is also a prominent theme in our collective national history — this year marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation. You can hear some of the stories of the people who were part of it here.
Enter London’s fantastic roster of Black-owned bookshops. Some have been publishing and selling books by Black writers for more than half a century, and others have opened more recently in order to diversify children’s literature. Some of these shops have online catalogues as well as branches to visit in person, so feel free to also have a browse of their websites.
This south London publisher produces Africa-orientated literature, including essays, history, novels and children’s books, in the hopes of ‘promoting an African view’. You can buy its publications – and other books on similar themes – from its online store. Many are also available as e-books.
This wellbeing and arts shop has been trading for 20 years. Pempamsie means ‘unity is strength’ and one of the aims of the shop is to support the African community in London. As well as books, you’ll find art, health and beauty products in its six branches across London. 102 Brixton Hill, SW2 1AH; 1 Goldcrest House, 34 Lee High Rd, SE13 5FH; 219 London Rd, CR4 2JD; 375B Hoe St, E17 9AP; 205A Stockwell Road, SW9 9SL; 45 Craven Park Road, NW10 8SE
Founded by Londoner Angel Miller, No Ordinary Book Shop, sells children’s books centred around BAME characters. Last year it expanded to sell Black-centric adult books too. It usually hosts various pop-up libraries and stalls around London. To browse their collection, visit their online shop.
This inclusion-led bookshop in Brixton only sells children’s books with Black, Asian or minority ethnic protagonists. The shop, set up by Aimée Felone and David Stevens, came about after a report from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) found just 1 percent of more than 9,000 children’s books published in the UK in 2017 had a BAME main character. Brixton Village, 73 Granville Arcade, SW9 8PS.
Founded in 1966, New Beacon Books was the UK’s first Black publisher and bookshop and is still going strong after staving off closure in 2017. Over the years its publishing arm has printed a huge number of books from Black writers, including the Trinidadian historian, journalist and socialist CLR James’s first and only novel. 76 Stroud Green Rd, N4 3EN.
This book subscription box was started by Keisha Ehigie, a Nigerian-Jamaican mum who noticed a lack of Black characters in her daughter's books. Her monthly package aims to empower Black children by providing them with main characters, and story lines which celebrate Black history.
This online shop and award winning independent publisher showcases a diverse portfolio of authors, including people of colour, Black women and other underrepresented voices. Their website offers book categories including a section on Windrush, LGBTQ+ and new releases.
If there are other Black-owned bookshops in London you think we should add, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're keen to learn more about Black history and culture, head down to Black Cultural Archives.
This guide shows you how best to support Black-owned businesses in London.
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