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She Owns The First Black Owned Bookstore Focused On Afro Futurism and Science Fiction

Isis Asare is the founder of Sistah SciFi, the first Black owned bookstore solely focused on science fiction and fantasy.

In this interview, we discuss her choice to focus on science fiction. We also discuss Afro-futurism, how it shows up in our daily lives and how Black people can create opportunities using technology.

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Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Online Bookstores That You Should Know

As social distancing measures keep people home, independent Black owned bookstores are among the many small businesses impacted by government-mandated shutdowns.

However, there are several Black owned online bookstores that would love to provide you with some literature to get you through your stay indoors.

Sistah Scifi

Uncle Bobbies

Mahogany Books

Eso Won Books

Harriet’s Bookshop

The Lit Bar

Brave and Kind Books

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Some of our favorites restocked and up in the webshop!

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DTR 360 Books

Key Bookstore

Semicolon Bookstore

Hakim’s Bookstore

Ashay By The Bay

AfriWare Books

Source Booksellers


-Tony O. Lawson

Related: 28 Black Owned Bookstores You Should Know

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The FBI’s Forgotten War on Black-Owned Bookstores

In the spring of 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover announced to his agents that COINTELPRO, the counter-intelligence program established in 1956 to combat communists, should focus on preventing the rise of a “Black ‘messiah’” who sought to “unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.”

Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-Harlem), right, gestures emphatically as he speaks outside the National Memorial African Bookstore in the Harlem section of New York, 1965. AP

The program, Hoover insisted, should target figures as ideologically diverse as the Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture), Martin Luther King Jr., and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

Just a few months later, in October 1968, Hoover penned another memo warning of the urgent menace of a growing Black Power movement, but this time the director focused on the unlikeliest of public enemies: black independent booksellers.

In a one-page directive, Hoover noted with alarm a recent “increase in the establishment of black extremist bookstores which represent propaganda outlets for revolutionary and hate publications and culture centers for extremism.”

The director ordered each Bureau office to “locate and identify black extremist and/or African-type bookstores in its territory and open separate discreet investigations on each to determine if it is extremist in nature.”

Each investigation was to “determine the identities of the owners; whether it is a front for any group or foreign interest; whether individuals affiliated with the store engage in extremist activities; the number, type, and source of books and material on sale; the store’s financial condition; its clientele; and whether it is used as a headquarters or meeting place.”

Perhaps most disturbing, Hoover wanted the Bureau to convince African American citizens (presumably with pay or through extortion) to spy on these stores by posing as sympathetic customers or activists.
“Investigations should be instituted on new stores when opened and you should recognize the excellent target these stores represent for penetration by racial sources,” he ordered.
Hoover, in short, expected agents to adopt the ruthless tactics of espionage and falsification they deployed against civil-rights and Black Power activists, and now use them against black-owned bookstores. Hoover’s memo offers us a troubling glimpse of a forgotten dimension of COINTELPRO, one that has escaped notice for decades: the FBI’s war on black-owned bookstores.
In addition to Hoover’s memo, I uncovered documents detailing Bureau surveillance of black bookstores in a least half a dozen cities across the U.S. in conducting research for my book, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs.
At the height of the Black Power movement, the FBI conducted investigations of such black booksellers as Lewis Michaux and Una Mulzac in New York City, Paul Coates in Baltimore (the father of The Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates), Dawud Hakim and Bill Crawford in Philadelphia, Alfred and Bernice Ligon in Los Angeles, and the owners of the Sundiata bookstore in Denver.
And this list is almost certainly far from complete, because most FBI documents pertaining to currently living booksellers aren’t available to researchers through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

Read the rest at CITY LAB