Hakim’s Bookstore: Sharing more than 60 years of rich history

A new initiative is happening in Philadelphia. The Little Freedom Library initiative is providing more than 1,500 free ban books across the city for people to grab and read. The project was designed to highlight black authors. 

According to PEN America, 30% of book bans include characters of color or discuss race and racism.

One of the stores that Visit Philly and Little Freedom Library use to buy the books is Hakim’s Bookstore. The store was founded and has been open since the late 1950s. The bookstore is located on south 52nd and walnut streets in west philly. The bookstore is Philly’s oldest black-owned bookstore with more than 60 years of rich history. The store was originally owned by Yvonne Blake’s father, who passed away and gave her the store 27 years ago.

The front entrance of Hakim’s Bookstore on 52nd Street, Philadelphia, Pa. on Friday,Feb 23, 2024.

Yvonne Black, the owner of Hakim’s Bookstore says, “I had promised him when we knew he wasn’t going to survive that I would keep the store open as long as I could. But it was a lot of work. And again, I was working a full time job. And so I had family members helping me up. At one point, we were only open one day a week.”

Customers are able to come to Hakim’s and pick out a book without feeling uncomfortable.

Customers checking out books at Hakim’s Bookstore on 52nd Street, Philadelphia, Pa. on Friday, Feb 23, 2024.

Tyrone Williams, a customer says, “Coming here, for instance, if I want a certain title, I don’t have to whisper and write it down. So the person behind the counter can understand me because they may have never heard of some of our authors.”

Even with book bans increasingly affecting black authors, shoppers can treat Hakim’s as a community resource.

Tamala Tinsley, a customer says, “When I go to the big box stores, you just have an African American section, but I might be looking for someone that’s more of a poet or more of a philosopher something, I want to know why my black authors are not what the rest of the philosophers Why I gotta go into African American section for a philosopher.”

Hakim’s Bookstore is open throughout the week, except for Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Text and video by: Corey Thompson

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