Black bookshop owner hands out anti-racism books to protestors for free

With people flocking online to buy anti-racism books, one Black bookshop owner decided to just give them away for free.

Jeannine Cook gave out copies of the autobiographies of Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X to Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The 36-year-old, who owns Harriett’s Bookshop, hoped the books would provide a ‘blueprint’ on how to tackle systemic racism.

Jeannine began giving out free books after an anonymous donor gave her shop $100 (£78.30) during the coronavirus lockdown.

After the murder of George Floyd, Jeannine realised just how important it was for people to educate themselves about the plight of Black communities.

Harriett’s Bookshop has already given out 100 books at protests in Philadelphia and is waiting for another 100 books to be delivered.

Jeannine has also added two more titles to the project which she hopes will give practical help to people fighting racism – Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow by Daniel Hunter and Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown.

‘Our bookshop is named after Harriet Tubman and it made perfect sense to highlight the work she’s done on this planet,’ said Jeannine.

‘The blueprint for a lot of the things we want to do has already been laid.

‘Harriet is a great example of how to be strategic, how to galvanise, and how to be an organiser.

‘I don’t know anyone in history who is more iconic. Malcolm X was doing the same work around police brutality.

‘After George Floyd’s killing, I went back to that donor and said I know how we can use that money.’

The donor supported the idea and soon Jeannine was flooded with other donations to help her give out free books on black history.

She added: ‘It just bubbled, people kept shooting money to our Venmo.

‘We wanted to give out books that it’s really important for communities to read together.

‘We hold books up so that people know they are available. Anyone can take one.’

Harriett’s Bookshop opened in February this year and had to close weeks later due to the coronavirus outbreak.

With people now also buying other texts from her shop, business is now doing better.

Jeannine continued: ‘When we first opened in February, those books were sitting on our shelves collecting dust.

‘It’s amazing to see how much we can change in a short period of time. In terms of business, we have sold more books which means we get to stay open.

‘An overwhelming number of people are buying White Fragility, Me and White Supremacy and How To Be An Antiracist.’

Jeannine laments that it took something so drastic for people to open their eyes to injustice.

‘I don’t want a man to have to die for us to realise that we have to work on ourselves.

‘In our country, our constitution is supposed to provide equal protection under the law right now we don’t have that.

‘Police officers have special rights and special privileges.

‘That’s a specific thing that needs to be changed and it has to be changed in my lifetime.’

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