Good morning, did you enjoy last week’s Black History Month post? I planned this week’s Black History Month post awhile ago, but there have been so many things happening the last week or so that I’m going to switch it up. Don’t worry I’m not going to talk about Beyonce or Cam Newton, at least not today. No, today’s post is to my local Barnes and Noble.
Before I get into my letter to them, if you follow the Mamademics fan page on Facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve been sharing a book a day for Black History Month. I initially planned to only do it for February, but after realizing I have way more than 29 books I want to share, I’m going to challenge myself to keep it going for a year. I’m calling it #BlackHistory365 and every day there will be a book posted that I think everyone should read, including myself because I haven’t read them all yet. The series will run from February 2016 through the end of January 2017. I think it’s important for us all to remember that Black history is American history and it needs to be part of our children’s curriculum as well as our own reading. I’ll feature both historical fiction and non-fiction, so there’s something for everyone. I will admit that I was still on the fence about taking on such a big project, but then I went into our local Barnes and Noble this morning, and realized that it’s definitely needed. Moving on to the letter… (This post contains affiliate links)
Dear Barnes and Noble,
I’d like to start this letter by admitting you’re my least favorite book store. I was a hardcore Borders girl and then they closed, so I reluctantly started to give you a chance. For the most part, I try to support small local bookstores when I can find them, but I typically purchase most of my books online on Amazon. It’s convenient and I can find pretty much every book I need. So, I typically only visit your store when someone gives me a gift card or I want to treat my son to a new book on a whim during a shopping trip.
The only exception to these times is Black History Month. Every year I make a point to go in on Black History Month because there is usually a display in both the adult section and children’s section with titles I might not have searched for online. The sections are usually large and labeled nicely. Your 2014 Black History displays are were I found Promises Kept and Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Be Malcolm X. You even had a special Black History Month bag special if you purchased a certain number of books. We love that bag and use it for our library visits.
So, imagine my surprise this morning when I walked into your Edgewood location this morning only to have to ask a clerk for the Black History Month display. I walked into the children’s section and instead of seeing a Black History display there was an American History display with only three titles about Black history and they were at the bottom of the display.
I sighed heavily and then went to where your usual display for the adults is and couldn’t find it. When I asked the clerk for help, he showed me this small display at the front. When he saw the look of disappointment on my face, he also pointed out there’s an African American non-fiction section as well.
I had every intention of buying two or three books today, but despite having a gift card, I just left. Let me be sure you understand, a person who loves books and whose husband fusses at her because our bookshelves are overflowing, walked out of your store today and didn’t even bother using the gift card to get at least one free book.
Here’s the thing: All month long people have been asking Black people why we still need Black History Month, and answers have varied depending on who you’ve talked too. My response is because despite Black history being American history, it is often not taught in school beyond a few pages on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. February, the shortest month of the year by the way, is the one time when Black people can walk in a bookstore and not have to comb through sections searching for books about Black people. It’s the one month when our children are not sitting in class trying to figure out where they fit into the history of this country. It’s the one month when Black people’s contributions to this country are not merely an afterthought.
Yet, it seems like Black History Month has become an afterthought in your bookstores. Your display for this month serves as nothing more than a bookend for your larger shelves and is easily overlooked. See, even though I know how to dig through the bookshelves to find what we need for my family, my non-Black friends don’t know where those gems are hidden. This is the one time of year when they walk into a store and see a display that might make them consider picking up a new book. It’s the one time of year that their children will see books displayed in the children’s section and pick one up curiously and hopefully convince their parents to buy it.
Barnes and Noble, I’m going to need for you to do better. If you’re not going to beef up your sections the other 11 months of the year, the least you can do is create a display that last 28 (sometimes 29) days to showcase all the amazing books that exist written by Black authors and even non-Black authors about our history and experiences. It’s not too late to right this wrong. You still have 19 days to make sure your displays are more than bookends. Not to mention, you could just make sure to include Black authors when you’re doing your other themes. Next month we’re celebrating Women’s History and Youth Art, make sure you add some people of color to those displays. When you have story time events? Don’t forget to use a person of color’s text each month.
Do you just need help finding the authors or bodies of work? Hire me as a consultant. I’ll create themed lists for you.
For all my readers, if you happen to visit a Barnes and Noble this month, please take a picture of the Black History Month (or lack of one) in your local store. Share it on social media with the hashtag #BHMDeservesMoreBN or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the city and I’ll share it for you.
Be sure to follow Mamademics on Facebook for #BlackHistory365