Black-Centered Book Clubs Provide Education, Healing & More To Readers

Book clubs function as a social space, and they have been gaining popularity for Black women and people of color over the last few years, according to NBC News.

For Black-centered book clubs, they can be both a social space, a place for community building. Some groups are even making them opportunities to learn more about political and social issues, such as the Noname Book Club. Created by rapper Noname in 2019, the club was established to combat years of political information gatekeeping Black people have faced. The club focuses on books about revolution and political theory.

There's also Well-Read Black Girl (WRBG), which has been around since 2015. Their reading centers around authors of color and works featuring Black and brown protagonists. Founder Glory Edim was struggling to find community and connection in New York book clubs. So, she decided to make her own.

“The initial conversations about books lead to lifelong friendships,” Edim said. “A lot can happen when you’re actively looking for a sense of purpose and connection.” On top of highlighting the voices of women of color, WRBG also aims "to start a global conversation about the inequities in the publishing industry and education,” Edim said.

The Black Lives Matter movement also pushed the need for healing and education in the Black community. Book clubs facilitated this need by providing "anti-racist resource lists." Members also said they feel safe speaking "freely and comfortably among other Black women" at these meetings, NBC News wrote.

Katherine Morgan, Portland chapter leader of WRBG, said the group made her feel "a lot less alone." “Originally, we allowed allies into the group, but that changed the whole experience. When the group became Black women-focused, it allowed us to let loose and to be ourselves," she said.

WRBG member Jehan Giles added: “Black women spend so much of our day-to-day life in and out of the micro- and macro-aggressive spaces that weren’t designed for us. To be in a space that was designed for us allows us to lean on sisterhood in order to imagine a world that cares for us, specifically."

Noname Book Club and WRBG are not the only ones out there. There's also Black Girls Read Too, Black Girls Lit, and the Black Feminist Bookmobile. These Black book communities don't just stop at discourse and meetings; they also participate in initiatives such as library partnerships, prison book clubs and helping nonprofit organizations.

These book clubs also share "curated lists of bookstores and other businesses owned by people of color to support their dollars." For WRBG, Edim stressed the importance of representing "multidimensional Black women" in the lists. "For many club members, picking up Claudia Rankine’s poetry or a collection of essays by Issa Rae is more than picking up a book, it’s seeing into the window of the self," NBC News said.

“Literature is one way for Black women to voice their desires for freedom, liberation and equality,” Edim said.

Photo: Getty Images

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