Summer Reading: Recommended New Books on the Black Experience

With summer quickly approaching, I have compiled a list of recommended new non-fiction books. All of these books, which were published as early as February or will be published this summer, offer valuable insights on the Black experience in the United States and across the globe. Collectively, these books deepen our understanding of race and racism, and provide the necessary tools for antiracism work. The list is organized alphabetically.


Tera Eva Agyepong,The Criminalization of Black Children: Race, Gender, and Delinquency in Chicago’s Juvenile Justice System, 1899–1945(University of North Carolina Press, April 2018).

In the late nineteenth century, progressive reformers recoiled at the prospect of the justice system punishing children as adults. Advocating that children’s inherent innocence warranted fundamentally different treatment, reformers founded the nation’s first juvenile court in Chicago in 1899. Yet amid an influx of new African American arrivals to the city during the Great Migration, notions of inherent childhood innocence and juvenile justice were circumscribed by race. In documenting how blackness became a marker of criminality that overrode the potential protections the status of “child” could have bestowed, Tera Eva Agyepong shows the entanglements between race and the state’s transition to a more punitive form of juvenile justice. In this important study, Agyepong expands the narrative of racialized criminalization in America, revealing that these patterns became embedded in a justice system originally intended to protect children. In doing so, she also complicates our understanding of the nature of migration and what it meant to be black and living in Chicago in the early twentieth century.

Despair and mourning after the election of an antagonistic or polarizing president, such as Donald Trump, is part of the push-pull of American politics. But in this incisive book, historian Mary Frances Berry shows that resistance to presidential administrations has led to positive change and the defeat of outrageous proposals, even in challenging times. Noting that all presidents, including ones considered progressive, sometimes require massive organization to affect policy decisions, Berry cites Indigenous peoples’ protests against the Dakota pipeline during Barack Obama’s administration as a modern example of successful resistance built on earlier actions. Beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Berry discusses that president’s refusal to prevent race discrimination in the defense industry during World War II and the subsequent March on Washington movement. She analyzes Lyndon Johnson, the war in Vietnam, and the antiwar movement and then examines Ronald Reagan’s two terms, which offer stories of opposition to reactionary policies, such as ignoring the AIDS crisis and retreating on racial progress, to show how resistance can succeed. The prochoice protests during the George H. W. Bush administration and the opposition to Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, as well as his budget cuts and welfare reform, are also discussed, as are protests against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act during George W. Bush’s presidency. Throughout these varied examples, Berry underscores that even when resistance doesn’t achieve all the goals of a particular movement, it often plants a seed that comes to fruition later.

Keisha N. Blain,Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (Penn Press, February 2018).

In 1932, Mittie Maude Lena Gordon spoke to a crowd of black Chicagoans at the old Jack Johnson boxing ring, rallying their support for emigration to West Africa. In 1937, Celia Jane Allen traveled to Jim Crow Mississippi to organize rural black workers around black nationalist causes. In the late 1940s, from her home in Kingston, Jamaica, Amy Jacques Garvey launched an extensive letter-writing campaign to defend the Greater Liberia Bill, which would relocate 13 million black Americans to West Africa. Gordon, Allen, and Jacques Garvey—as well as Maymie De Mena, Ethel Collins, Amy Ashwood, and Ethel Waddell—are part of an overlooked and understudied group of black women who take center stage in Set the World on Fire, the first book to examine how black nationalist women engaged in national and global politics from the early twentieth century to the 1960s. Historians of the era generally portray the period between the Garvey movement of the 1920s and the Black Power movement of the 1960s as an era of declining black nationalist activism, but Keisha N. Blain reframes the Great Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War as significant eras of black nationalist—and particularly, black nationalist women’s—ferment. In Chicago, Harlem, and the Mississippi Delta, from Britain to Jamaica, these women built alliances with people of color around the globe, agitating for the rights and liberation of black people in the United States and across the African diaspora. As pragmatic activists, they employed multiple protest strategies and tactics, combined numerous religious and political ideologies, and forged unlikely alliances in their struggles for freedom. Drawing on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs, and poetry, Set the World on Fire highlights the flexibility, adaptability, and experimentation of black women leaders who demanded equal recognition and participation in global civil society.

Howard Bryant, The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism (Beacon Press, May 2018).

It used to be that politics and sports were as separate from one another as church and state. The ballfield was an escape from the world’s worst problems, top athletes were treated like heroes, and cheering for the home team was as easy and innocent as hot dogs and beer. “No news on the sports page” was a governing principle in newsrooms. That was then. Today, sports arenas have been transformed into staging grounds for American patriotism and the hero worship of law enforcement. Teams wear camouflage jerseys to honor those who serve; police officers throw out first pitches; soldiers surprise their families with homecomings at halftime. Sports and politics are decidedly entwined. But as journalist Howard Bryant reveals, this has always been more complicated for black athletes, who from the start, were committing a political act simply by being on the field. In fact, among all black employees in twentieth-century America, perhaps no other group had more outsized influence and power than ballplayers. The immense social responsibilities that came with the role is part of the black athletic heritage. It is a heritage built by the influence of the superstardom and radical politics of Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos through the 1960s; undermined by apolitical, corporate-friendly “transcenders of race,” O. J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods in the following decades; and reclaimed today by the likes of LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, and Carmelo Anthony. The Heritage is the story of the rise, fall, and fervent return of the athlete-activist. Through deep research and interviews with some of sports’ best-known stars—including Kaepernick, David Ortiz, Charles Barkley, and Chris Webber—as well as members of law enforcement and the military, Bryant details the collision of post-9/11 sports in America and the politically engaged post-Ferguson black athlete.

Brittany Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower(St. Martin’s Press, February 2018).

So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting. Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon. Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. When Cooper learned of her grandmother’s eloquent rage about love, sex, and marriage in an epic and hilarious front-porch confrontation, her life was changed. And it took another intervention, this time staged by one of her homegirls, to turn Brittney into the fierce feminist she is today. In Brittney Cooper’s world, , neither mean girls nor f***boys ever win. But homegirls emerge as heroes. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

Anna-Lisa Cox, The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality(PublicAffairs Books, June 2018).

The American frontier is one of our most cherished and enduring national images. We think of the early pioneers who settled the wilderness as courageous, independent–and white. This version of history is simply wrong. Starting in our nation’s earliest years, thousands of free African Americans were building hundreds of settlements in the Northwest Territory, a territory that banned slavery and gave equal voting rights to all men. This groundbreaking work of research reveals the lost history of the nation’s first Great Migration. Though forgotten today, these pioneers were a matter of national importance at the time; their mere existence leading to fierce political movements and battles that tore families and communities apart long before the Civil War erupted. The Bone and Sinew of the Land is a story with its roots in the ideals of the American Revolution, a story of courageous pioneers transformed by the belief that all men are created equal, seeking a brighter future on the American frontier.

Roxane Gay, ed.Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture(HarperCollins Publishers, May 2018).

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to MeNot That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.” Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Jean Hatzfeld, Blood Papa: Rwanda’s New Generation (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2018).

In Rwanda from April to June 1994, 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by their Hutu neighbors in the largest and swiftest genocide since World War II. In his previous books, Jean Hatzfeld has documented the lives of the killers and victims, but after twenty years he has found that the enormity of understanding doesn’t stop with one generation. In Blood Papa, Hatzfeld returns to the hills and marshes of Nyamata to ask what has become of the children—those who never saw the machetes yet have grown up in the shadow of tragedy. Fabrice, Sandra, Jean-Pierre, and others share the genocide as a common inheritance. Some have known only their parents’ silence and lies, enduring the harassment of classmates or the stigma of a father jailed for unspeakable crimes. Others have enjoyed a loving home and the sympathies offered to survivor children, but do so without parents or an extended family. The young Rwandans in Blood Papa see each other in the neighborhood—they dance and gossip, frequent the same cafés, and, like teenagers everywhere, love sports, music, and fashion; they surf the Web and dream of marriage. Yet Hutu and Tutsi children rarely speak of the ghosts that haunt their lives. Here their moving first-person accounts combined with Hatzfeld’s arresting chronicles of everyday life form a testament to survival in a country devastated by the terrible crimes and trauma of the past

Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”(HarperCollins Publishers, May 2018).

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States. In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilda, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War. Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.

Martha S. Jones, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, June 2018).

Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in the United States. Birthright Citizens recovers the story of how African American activists remade national belonging through battles in legislatures, conventions, and courthouses. They faced formidable opposition, most notoriously from the US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, Martha S. Jones explains, no single case defined their status. Former slaves studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local, everyday claims. All along they argued that birth guaranteed their rights. With fresh archival sources and an ambitious reframing of constitutional law-making before the Civil War, Jones shows how the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, and black Americans’ aspirations were realized. Birthright Citizens tells how African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans.

Keisha Lindsay, In a Classroom of Their Own: The Intersection of Race and Feminist Politics in All-Black Male Schools(University of Illinois Press, July 2018).

Many advocates of all-black male schools (ABMS) argue that these institutions counter black boys’ racist emasculation in white, “overly” female classrooms. This argument challenges racism and perpetuates antifeminism. Keisha Lindsay explains the complex politics of ABMS by situating these schools within broader efforts at neoliberal education reform and within specific conversations about both “endangered” black males and a “boy crisis” in education. Lindsay also demonstrates that intersectionality, long considered feminist, is in fact a politically fluid framework. As such, it represents a potent tool for advancing many political agendas, including those of ABMS supporters who champion antiracist education for black boys while obscuring black girls’ own race and gender-based oppression in school. Finally, Lindsay theorizes a particular means by which black men and other groups can form antiracist and feminist coalitions even when they make claims about their experiences that threaten bridge building. The way forward, Lindsay shows, allows disadvantaged groups to navigate the racial and gendered politics that divide them in pursuit of productive—and progressive—solutions. Far-thinking and boldly argued, In a Classroom of Their Own explores the dilemmas faced by professionals and parents in search of equitable schooling for all students—black boys and otherwise.

Darnell L. Moore, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America(Nation Books, May 2018).

When Darnell Moore was fourteen, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. They cornered him while he was walking home from school, harassed him because they thought he was gay, and poured a jug of gasoline on him. He escaped, but just barely. It wasn’t the last time he would face death. Three decades later, Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken by that scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling. Moore’s transcendence over the myriad forces of repression that faced him is a testament to the grace and care of the people who loved him, and to his hometown, Camden, NJ, scarred and ignored but brimming with life. Moore reminds us that liberation is possible if we commit ourselves to fighting for it, and if we dream and create futures where those who survive on society’s edges can thrive. No Ashes in the Fire is a story of beauty and hope-and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.

Donna Murch, Assata Taught Me: State Violence, Mass Incarceration, and the Movement for Black Lives(Haymarket Books, August 2018).

Black Panther and Cuban exile, Assata Shakur, has inspired multiple generations of radical protest, including our contemporary Black Lives Matter movement. Drawing its title from one of America’s foremost revolutionaries this collection of thought-provoking essays by award-winning Panther scholar Donna Murch explores how social protest is challenging our current system of state violence and mass incarceration. Murch exposes the devastating consequences of overlapping punishment campaigns against gangs, drugs, and crime on poor and working- class populations of color. Through largely hidden channels, it is these punishment campaigns, Murch says, that generate enormous revenues for the state. Under such difficult conditions, organized resistance to the advancing tide of state violence and incarceration has proved difficult. This timely and urgent book shows how a youth-led political movement has emerged since the killing of Trayvon Martin that challenges the bi-partisan consensus on punishment and looks to the future through a redistributive, queer, and feminist lens. Murch frames the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement in relation to earlier struggles for Black Liberation, while excavating the origins of mass incarceration and the political economy that drives it. Assata Taught Me offers a fresh and much-needed historical perspective on the fifty years since the founding of the Black Panther Party, in which the world’s largest police state has emerged.

Nell Painter, Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over(Counterpoint Press, June 2018).

How are women, and artists, “seen” and judged by their age, race, and looks? And how does this seeing change, depending upon what is asked of the viewer? What does it mean when someone states (as one teacher does) that “you will never be an Artist”—who defines “an Artist,” and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference? Old in Art School represents an ongoing exploration of such questions, one that ultimately honors curiosity, openness, and joy—the joy of embracing creativity, dreams, the importance of hard work, and the stubborn determination of your own value. Nell Painter’s journey is filled with surprises, even as she brings to bear the incisiveness of her insights from two careers, which combine in new ways even as they take very different approaches—one searching for facts and cohesion, the other seeking the opposite. She travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; finds meaning in the artists she loves, such as Alice Neel, Faith Ringgold, or Maira Kalman, even as she comes to understand how they are undervalued; and struggles with the ever-changing balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.

Imani Perry, May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem(University of North Carolina Press, February 2018).

The twin acts of singing and fighting for freedom have been inseparable in African American history. May We Forever Stand tells an essential part of that story. With lyrics penned by James Weldon Johnson and music composed by his brother Rosamond, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was embraced almost immediately as an anthem that captured the story and the aspirations of black Americans. Since the song’s creation, it has been adopted by the NAACP and performed by countless artists in times of both crisis and celebration, cementing its place in African American life up through the present day. In this rich, poignant, and readable work, Imani Perry tells the story of the Black National Anthem as it traveled from South to North, from civil rights to black power, and from countless family reunions to Carnegie Hall and the Oval Office. Drawing on a wide array of sources, Perry uses “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as a window on the powerful ways African Americans have used music and culture to organize, mourn, challenge, and celebrate for more than a century.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wresting with the Devil: A Prison Memoir (The New Press, March 2018).

Wrestling with the Devil, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir, begins literally half an hour before his release on December 12, 1978. In one extended flashback he recalls the night, a year earlier, when armed police pulled him from his home and jailed him in Kenya’s Kamĩtĩ Maximum Security Prison, one of the largest in Africa. There, he lives in a prison block with eighteen other political prisoners, quarantined from the general prison population. In a conscious effort to fight back the humiliation and the intended degradation of the spirit, Ngũgĩ—the world-renowned author of Weep Not, ChildPetals of Blood; and Wizard of the Crow—decides to write a novel on toilet paper, the only paper to which he has access, a book that will become his classic, Devil on the Cross. Written in the early 1980s and never before published in America, Wrestling with the Devil is Ngũgĩ’s account of the drama and the challenges of writing fiction under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He captures not only the excruciating pain that comes from being cut off from his wife and children, but also the spirit of defiance that defines hope. Ultimately, Wrestling with the Devil is a testimony to the power of imagination to help humans break free of confinement, which is truly the story of all art.



Top 5 thought-provoking books written by celebrated Pan-African leaders

by Bridget Boakye, at 06:08 am, June 15, 2018, Culture
Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko



The recent wave of consciousness/’wokeness’ of the last half-decade has led many young and old people to Pan Africanism. The return to the continent and love for all things black has resurfaced an interest in African history and ideas of the past.

But who better to learn about the history and ideas of the African people than from the leaders of its past. The list below is by no means exhaustive but it is a good start for those looking to begin their deep dive into Pan-Africanism.


Neo-Colonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism by Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, freedom fighter, and pioneer of Pan Africanism released this book in 1965. According to reports, it was so controversial that the US Department of State blocked $25 million in foreign aide to Ghana upon its release. The book was among the first to openly criticize Western governments, especially the United States, who had wanted to paint themselves as impartial at worst, and supportive of African countries at best at the end of colonialism. The book pointed out the exploitative nature of these countries’ relationship with Africa, especially in economic terms. “Something in the nature of an economic revolution is required. Our development has been held back for too long by the colonial-type economy. We need to reorganize entirely so that each country can specialize in producing the goods and crops for which it is best suited,” Nkrumah wrote.


Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara

Few people know about Burkinabe’s first president, Thomas Sankara’s book about women and the African freedom struggle. This book is a transcription of a speech Sankara gave in 1987 at a women’s rally about the importance of gender equality on the continent. The book put him far ahead of his peers, making him one of the continent’s most progressive leaders. One of his most poignant quotes, “there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women”, continues to ring deeply in the hearts of many Africanists.


I Write What I Like by Steve Biko

Steve Biko, the revolutionary South African who was killed at the tender age of 31, wrote these pieces when he was president of the South African Student Organisation. One of the most celebrated leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, his writings stressed the importance of raising one’s consciousness and mindset as the way to true liberation. Father of the Black Consciousness Movement, his quote, “the greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” has become defining for all Pan Africanists.


The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B DuBois

Pioneering sociologist, Civil Rights activist and Pan-Africanist, W.E.B DuBois set the foundation for the intellectual study of race in this work he published in 1903. His book explored the issues of race, class, and society. Dubois coined the term ‘double consciousness’, and introduced other radical ideas such as the color line and the veil. He wrote, “One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”


The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley

Writer Alex Halex wrote this book based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted with Malcolm X between 1963 and his assassination in 1965. Coauthored by Malcolm X and following his journey from prison to an endeared Civil Rights activist, the book is acclaimed for introducing many people to black consciousness. “So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise,” Malcolm said.


“Proof of Consciousness” (P.O.C.) the Host of REVIVE!!! 11/29/2017

Today’s REVIVE show topic is entitled:

“Winning Wednesday”

#REVIVE #Tabm0ney #SpecialGuest 

#CurrentEvents #TrendingTopics 

It would be amazing to hear your perspective. So please call in we want to hear what you guys out there have to say always. Once again this show is for the people. We here at REVIVE thrive off of communication. So call us at (215)490-9832. This episode of REVIVE will be an open forum so all perspectives can be heard through great conversation.

This episode on REVIVE is entitled “Winning Wednesday” on REVIVE RADIO! Call in to REVIVE at 215-490-9832, you never know what may happen!


Nyeeam Hudson “King Nahh”:

International Motivational Speaker, Artist, Author

Nyeeam Hudson has captured global and national celebrity attention and audiences. “The International Motivational Speaker” is one of “12 kids who rocked the world in 2016” according to the Huffington Post and Forbes would like for you to “Meet the most motivational kid in America.” Nyeem has been interviewed and has apperared on countless media platforms, including Good Morning America (ABC-NY).

Nyeeam Hudson has written his first book “We Are All Kings” – A Motivational Guide For Parents. He shares his journey to encourage young boys to believe in themselves as kings of greatness. There is no discrimination in his message – and shares the same message to young girls in his upcoming second book “We Are Queens Too!”  

Nyeeam Hudson is also Youth Advocate Director for the FP YouthOutcry Foundation (NJ) where he is a youth advocate and spokesperson.

“Expose your child to a broad spectrum of experiences. Let them explore and tap into their greatness – every moment counts!” – Nyeeam Hudson


It would be amazing to hear your perspective. So please call in we want to hear what you guys the listening audience out there have to say always. Once again this show is for the people. We here at REVIVE thrive off of communication. So call us at (215)490-9832  & follow on Twitter, IG & Facebook @REVIVE_POC 


Inside Black and Nobel, Philly’s still-thriving black-owned bookstore

Hakim Hopkins wants to be clear: His place will always be a bookstore.

Black and Nobel, Hopkins’ shop at Broad and Erie, is weathering industry shifts. Brick-and-mortar black bookstores have become rarities, hit hard by online shopping and e-books. The African American Literature Book Club maintains a directory of black-owned bookstores, by state. Out of the three establishments listed for Pennsylvania, only two remain open: Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop in West Philly, the oldest African American bookstore in the country, and Black and Nobel.

Hakim’s (Hopkins was named after its founder) is open part-time, four days a week. Black and Nobel — the second part of the name, commonly pronounced “Noble,” is really meant to sound like the estimable prize — is open seven days a week. However, books aren’t the only thing sold there.

Inside the store, shoppers can pick up DVDs, wooden sculptures, flags from countries throughout the Black Diaspora, clothing, smoothies and shea butter. The latter two are huge sellers; Black and Nobel manufactures its own sea moss drinks and products with plants imported from Caribbean islands like St. Lucia and Belize.

“Health and wellness keeps us open,” said Hopkins, “but the books are a foundation — everybody knows us as ‘the bookstore.’”

Both are products not readily available anywhere else nearby. “You don’t see that in the hood,” he explained. He offered, for comparison’s sake, the idea of a sushi spot opening on the corridor. “If someone came to Erie Avenue and opened a sushi restaurant, the line would go all the way to the bus stop.

“Because we’re a bookstore, it’s a big deal for people,” he said. “I’ll always sell books, whether it’s slow or fast.”

In an article for Black Perspectives, the blog for the African American Intellectual History Society, University of Baltimore history professor Joshua Clark Davis evaluated the black bookstore as not simply a book retailer, but as a locus for Black Power.

“African American booksellers were much more than small business owners,” Clark wrote. “In the late 1960s and 1970s, a successful black bookstore could bring together the campaigns for black politics, black arts, black studies, black community control, and black economic empowerment into the space of a single business. In so doing, these activist entrepreneurs realized Black Power’s goals for self-determination, and they helped to redefine what black businesses could and should be.”

Hopkins would concur with this argument, but he also thinks the digital age and political climate are changing the customer base. He pointed out that he doesn’t always know what color his online shoppers are. He set up a table at the Women’s March in DC, where he sold health products and tees.

“I sold out of everything, and it wasn’t too many of us there, as far as black people,” he said. “People were buying black culture that weren’t black… I think we’re living in a different time. People are coming together more now than ever.”


Yep, you can still find CDs here, too.

Before you enter the bookstore, vendors greet you outside.


Mural-lined stairs take shoppers to the walk-up store.


Hopkins says online business is key. The store also maintains an active YouTube presence, where it has nearly 40,000 subscribers.


A man browses inside Black and Nobel.


Hopkins stocks books from mostly independent authors and publishers. He felt inspired to go into the business after voracious reading pulled him through a dark period in his life. He doesn’t like to get into what had happened back then: “I try not to go too deep into negativity.” After participating in a six-week career development program at Temple in 2004, he started vending books downtown and built up the business until he eventually opened a storefront in 2007.


The apparel section.

Before books, Hopkins wasn’t a stranger to vending. He had sold oils, tees and the like. “We come from that hustle mentality,” he explained. “Me and my team, we’ll be setting up at 9:30 to sell hot soup and products at the Gucci Mane show.”


Behind this table, Hopkins keeps stacks of paintings.

Hopkins said he wasn’t unnerved by industry trends. “I’m not bitter at all. I helped develop a lot of talent and artists,” he said. “I can’t be scared, I have to be sturdy.”


The Final Call is the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam.

He said the store’s evolution has been a natural one: “You don’t need to have a book everyday, but you do need to wash your body everyday, hopefully two or three times a day.”


Hopkins, listening intently to a customer.


Inside, it’s not unusual to hear Hopkins having long discussions with customers. The bookstore as a place to hang out and politic — Hopkins loves that. “It’s kind of dying breed, but we’re holding on to it,” he said. “So people can feel human and not nano, not technology. That’s where the world is going. That’s where the world is. We do a mix of both.”


Broad and Erie.

The web domain redirects to Black and Nobel’s website. The store, thanks in part to its eye-grabbing signage, has become known for this service. In October 2015, Hopkins told Philly Voice that he was shipping 50 packages to prisons daily. He couldn’t put his finger on a figure when we checked with him. “Every week it varies,” he said.


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Inside Black and Nobel, Philly’s still-thriving black-owned bookstore





Robert Franklin Williams was a civil rights leader,activist,author and the president of the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP chapter in the 1950s and early 1960s. At a time when racial tension was high and official abuses were rampant, Williams was a key figure in promoting armed black self-defense in the United States. He and his wife left the United States in 1961. A self-professed Black Nationalist and supporter of liberation, he lived in both Cuba and communist China in exile.
Williams’ book Negroes with Guns (1962), published while he was in exile in Cuba, details his experience with violent racism and his disagreement with the pacifist Civil Rights Movement philosophies. Among others the book influenced Huey Newton, who founded the Black Panthers.

Williams was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1925 to Emma C. and John L. Williams, a railroad boiler washer. His grandmother, a former slave, gave Williams the rifle with which his grandfather, a Republican campaigner and publisher of the newspaper The People’s Voice, had defended himself in the hard years after Reconstruction. At the age of 11, Williams witnessed the beating and dragging of a black woman by the police officer Jesse Helms, Sr. (He was the father of future US Senator Jesse Helms.)
As a young man, Williams joined the Great Migration, traveling north for work during World War II. He witnessed race riots in Detroit in 1943, prompted by labor competition between European Americans and blacks. Drafted in 1944, he served for a year and a half in the segregated Army before returning home to Monroe. In 1947, Williams married Mabel Robinson, a fellow civil rights activist. They had two children together. Williams first entered the national civil rights struggle working with the NAACP as a community organizer in Monroe. When he defended two young black boys who were jailed after being accused of kissing a white girl there in 1958, he became famous around the world. His publicity campaign, inviting a barrage of embarrassing headlines in the global press, was instrumental in shaming the officials involved into eventually releasing them. The controversy was known as the “Kissing Case”.
The local NAACP was working to integrate the public swimming pools. They organized peaceful demonstrations, but some drew gunfire. No one was arrested or punished, although law enforcement officers were present.
Williams had already started the Black Armed Guard to defend the local black community from racist activity. KKK membership numbered some 15,000 locally. Black residents fortified their homes with sandbags and trained to use rifles in the event of night raids by the Klan. Followers attested to Williams’ advocating the use of advanced powerful weaponry rather than more traditional firearms. Williams insisted his position was defensive, as opposed to a declaration of war. He called it “armed self-reliance” in the face of white terrorism. Threats against Williams’ life and his family became more frequent. In 1959, Williams debated the merits of nonviolence with Martin Luther King Jr at the NAACP convention. The national NAACP office suspended his local chapter presidency for six months because of his outspoken disagreements with the national leadership. He said his wife would take over his position and he would continue his leadership through her.
When CORE dispatched “freedom riders” from the North to Monroe to campaign in 1961, the local NAACP chapter served as their base. Around this time, a European-American couple in a town nearby drove through the black section of Monroe after some escalated disputes at the courthouse, but were stopped in the street by an angry crowd. For their safety, they were taken to Williams’ home. Williams initially told them that they were free to go, but he soon realized that the crowd would not grant safe passage. He kept the European-American couple in a house nearby until they were able to safely leave the neighborhood.
The FBI’s wanted poster alerted people to an armed kidnapper.
North Carolina law enforcement admonished Williams and accused him of having kidnapped the couple. He and his family fled the state with local law enforcement in pursuit. His eventual interstate flight triggered prosecution by the FBI.
On August 28, 1961, an FBI Most Wanted warrant was issued in Charlotte, North Carolina, charging Williams with unlawful interstate flight to avoid prosecution for kidnapping. The FBI document lists Williams as a “free lance writer and janitor” and states that (Williams)”…has previously been diagnosed as a schizophrenic and has advocated and threatened violence… considered armed and extremely dangerous.” After the appearance of this Wanted poster, signed by the director J. Edgar Hoover, Williams decided to leave the country. Williams went to Cuba by way of Canada and then Mexico. He regularly broadcast addresses to Southern blacks on “Radio Free Dixie”, a station he established with assistance from Cuban President Fidel Castro and operated from 1962-1965. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Williams used Radio Free Dixie to urge black soldiers in the U.S. armed forces, who were then preparing for a possible invasion of Cuba, to engage in insurrection against the United States. “While you are armed, remember this is your only chance to be free. . . . This is your only chance to stop your people from being treated worse than dogs. We’ll take care of the front, Joe, but from the back, he’ll never know what hit him. You dig?”
During this stay, Mabel and Robert Williams published the newspaper, The Crusader. Williams wrote his book, Negroes With Guns, while in Cuba. It had a significant influence on Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panthers. Despite his absence from the United States, in 1964 Williams was elected president of the US-based Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). In 1965 Williams traveled to Hanoi, then the capital of North Vietnam. He advocated armed violence against the United States during the Vietnam War, congratulated China on obtaining its own nuclear weapons (which Williams referred to as “The Freedom Bomb”), and sided with the North Vietnamese against the United States.
In 1965, Williams and his wife left Cuba to settle in China, where he was well received. They lived comfortably there and he associated with higher functionaries of the Chinese government. In January 1968, Lynn wrote to encourage Williams to return to the US. Williams responded.
Williams was suspected by the Justice Department of wanting to fill the vacuum of influence left after the assassinations of his friends Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hoover received reports that blacks looked to Williams as a figure similar to John Brown. Attempts to contact the U.S. government in order to return were rebuffed consistently. He returned via London, England to Detroit, Michigan in 1969 and was immediately arrested for extradition to North Carolina for trial on the kidnapping charge. Shortly after he returned, the approaching period of détente augured a warming of relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Williams was tried in Monroe, North Carolina in December 1975. The historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall chaired his defense committee and a broad range of leftists arrived in town. Attorney William Kunstler represented Williams in court. The state of North Carolina dropped all charges against him almost immediately.
He died from Hodgkin’s disease in 1996. At his funeral, Rosa Parks, who started the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, recounted the high regard for Robert F. Williams by those who marched peacefully with King in Alabama.

Ancestral Obligations w/ special guest Chike Akua

Chike Akua - Honoring Our Ancestral Obligations: 7 Steps to Black Student Success

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Author, Historian, Educator, Chike Akua was our guest on the Time For An Awakening Radio Program. His new book entitled “Honoring Our Ancestral Obligations: 7 Steps to Black Student Success” was the topic. Along with historical reflections of Marcus Garvey on the day before the 128th anniversary of his birth.

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