Located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, there’s something special about Medu Bookstore. Tucked in the Greenbrier Mall, just a half-mile from Tyler Perry Studios, Medu Bookstore is one of the best places in the city to explore vigorous volumes of African and Black literature traditionally unavailable to many while losing oneself in vibrant Black folk art from around the world. Not only does Medu Bookstore host a variety of lectures, book signings, and other events, but the store also represents a greater movement to support more Black-owned businesses.
Currently, there are around 10,800 bookstores in the United States but only 125 of them are owned by Black entrepreneurs. While it’s no secret that there is a disparity in regards to Black-owned bookstores, many major cities, including Atlanta, are flourishing with stores as readers search for more Black independently–owned bookstores. And with 9 brick-and-mortar stores that carry authors like Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and Zora Neale Hurson, the Atlanta metro area’s Black-owned bookstores are becoming hot-spots for the discovery of cultural narratives.
Meet Medu Bookstore
Of the 9 Atlanta metro area shops, Medu Bookstore is the second-largest in the city and was first established in December of 1989. With a name that means “the power of the word,” Medu and its owner, Nia Damali have provided local readers with African American literature for more than twenty years.
Despite conditions caused by the pandemic, nothing has stopped Medu’s progression. Readers are able to shop and attend programs, fellowships, or even book signings year-round. Their events include lectures and book talks with notable Black and brown authors like Syleena Johnson, Waler Rodney, Dr. Charles Finch, Former Mayor Andrew Young, Senator Vincent Fort, John Lewis, and many more. With a list of guests like these, it’s easy to see why Medu Bookstore is a resource, asset, and pillar in the Atlanta community.
Black bookstores like Medu are often a bridge connecting communities with Black authors and literature. Public and academic libraries occasionally provide programming that promotes Black literature, but Black-owned bookstores have something these learning environments do not— they’re run by members of the community they serve. Communities typically already have a rapport with many bookstore owners, and this bond ultimately strengthens readers’ interest in Black literature.
Beyond Black-owned bookstores, there are other culturally-centered organizations that exist for patrons that do not have physical access to specific bookstores. The African American Literature Book Club (AALBC) is the oldest, largest, and most frequently visited web-based bookseller focused on Black books. For almost a quarter of a century, the platform has published bestseller lists, book reviews, profiles of authors, videos, articles, and has become essential to readers wanting to explore Black culture, issues, and narratives.
Bookstores like Medu create space that has not always existed for Black people, and other People of Color, and opens the literary world for everyone. If you’re in the Atlanta metro area, we recommend you pop by Medu for a visit and a new book (or two). BIPOC-owned local bookstores are perfect learning environments for any reader to find the books they’re looking for, especially those authored by Black writers or other writers of color. Do you know of a seriously incredible BIPOC-owned local bookstore? Introduce us to them over Twitter or Instagram @bookclubdotcom.