London's Black-Owned, Independent Bookshops And Publishers


Leileith James-Dunkley at New Beacon Books.

London-based and online: here’s a collection of black-owned, independent bookshops and publishers delivering across the UK. Whether you’re hunting down a particular book or browsing for inspiration, make these your first port of call: not only will you be supporting Black-owned businesses and small businesses, but independent bookshops typically give a higher percentage of the sale price of books to their authors than larger traders like Amazon, so shopping via these sellers will help channel your spending towards creators.

New Beacon Books – Finsbury Park

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We’ve covered New Beacon’s history in more depth in this 2017 article — but think of it more as an institution than just a bookseller and you’re on the right track. Set up in 1966 by Trinidadian Jacob La Rose and his partner Sarah White, the brand’s work also takes in publishing, political activism and from 1991 the premises have alsp been home to the George Padmore Institute.

New Beacon’s publishing history begins a year before the bookshop itself opened, with La Rose’s first book of poetry, Foundations. The book opens with Word Creatures, starting:

These words

Come not trippingly,

But fall unspeakable,

From islets of truth

Within me.

Something of a statement for what the New Beacon brand would become, with the publishing company going on to produce scores of books by black writers over by the years and bringing in customers from across the world.

Jacaranda Books – Bloomsbury

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If it’s not easy/possible to visit a bookshop in person, Jacaranda’s website is a brilliant place to replicate the same browsing-for-hours experience — their careful curation and compilation lists (like this Celebrating Black Love collection) bouncing you from new discovery to new discovery.  Search on #Twentyin2020 for their list of 20 books publishing this year by Black British authors — all available from Jacaranda, currently offering free delivery on orders over £50.

You can hear founder Valerie Brandes talk about her experience setting up a publishing business, and the books that have shaped her life at the London Library podcast here.

Round Table Books – Brixton

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Online orders are still being taken and dispatched from this brilliant pop-up shop — focusing on children’s books, from diversity-led publisher Knights Of. They have plans to reopen next month, follow them on Instagram to keep track of their latest location.

The Black Cultural Archives in Brixton.

Black Cultural Archives – Brixton

In non-coronavirus times, this Brixton institution — focused on sharing and preserving the stories and history of African and Caribbean people in Britain — offers a reading room and library (usual opening hours: 10am-4pm, Wednesday to Friday), as well as a shop (usual opening hours, 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday).  The BCA’s currently closed, keep a look out on their website or follow on Instagram for reopening announcements. In the meantime, you can support their work by donating here.

Ayebia – online  

Actually just outside London, this Oxfordshire-based publisher specialises in African and Caribbean writing, set up by Ghanaian-born Nana Ayebia Clarke MBE. Their stocklist takes in politics, theology, history, poetry, fiction and more, from across the African and Caribbean literary and academic scene.

No Ordinary Bookshop – online

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No Ordinary Bookshop specialises in reading material by authors of Black heritage — and pop-up libraries — for children, teens and young adults. More recently, though, they’ve expanded their collection to include fiction and non-fic for adults and a smallish but growing range of world-language books including books for children in Italian, Arabic and Russian.

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