Bookstore Named After Harriet Tubman Celebrates Female Authors & Activists

One black-owned bookshop aims to uplift female authors, artists and activists, and it's named after famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Jeannine A. Cook is the owner, curator, and mind behind Harriet's Bookshop, a store located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She told NBC News her ambition to open the store came from her passion for reading, especially female authors.

"Even when I was younger, we're reading Beowulf (in class but) I'm reading Alice Walker," Cook said. "I used to sneak and read Alice Walker because I was told I was too young and the content was raw for my age, but I was always on the prowl for stories that I felt resonated with me and felt like my stories."

The mission of Harriet's Bookshop is to put a spotlight on influential female figures and modern-day visionaries and artists. As much of great American literature is dominated by white voices and male authors, Cook wants to interject some more diverse talent into the canon.

There have been some challenges along the way. NBC News said the original store, which was located on 7th Street and Girard Avenue, went up in flames. The current location opened up on February 1, 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the United States. Cook also revealed that the bookshop received death threats as protests raged in Philadelphia following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.

Coupled with the skills and work she put in to make her dreams come true, Cook attributed "her resilience to the voice of Harriet Tubman in her conscience," reporters wrote.

"There's this whole lie that Black people don't read, that Black women didn't do everything that we've done," Cook said. Harriet Tubman "was somebody, even as a little girl, that I needed to see and know that these stories had real-life humans, real-life Black women, just like me, who were the reason that certain institutions crumbled. If you want to see Black women celebrated, then just go celebrate them and everybody else can get on board if they want."

The store popularity's soared since its opening, becoming a "bastion for social justice." The Harriet Bookshop team reportedly gave out books to those protesting in the streets. Their Instagram page gained thousands of followers over one weekend. They even nabbed a shoe line partnership with Vans, and Cook herself was recognized by a congresswoman for Women's History Month.

"The work is just to practice what you preach," Cook said. "What would be something that you could do that represents what we stand for? I was like, I have a box of books."

What's next for Cook? The bookshop owner said she hopes to open a second storefront this Mother's Day in Collingswood, New Jersey, she told NBC News. This store will be called Ida's Bookshop, named named for investigative journalist and Black activist Ida B. Wells.

"I would love it if we were creating intentional spaces to discuss what the concept of freedom looks like and to discuss how we how we're going to put that into action."

Photo: Getty Images

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