Black Stone Bookstore Cultural Center

In downtown Ypsilanti on Michigan Avenue, nestled between a MaddGear store and a music shop, stands a bookstore that aims to fill a void in local literature.

Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center was conceived in 2013 and sells only African American literature. “I saw that it was a need,” said Carlos Franklin, owner of Black Stone, as we chatted on the phone about his inspirations. “Going to these major bookstores, there wasn’t anything for African Americans. I wanted to provide.”

Even if a bookstore has a selection of African American literature, it might be small, especially compared to other genres. Black Stone is the only bookstore in Washtenaw County that sells only African American literature.“

I believe black writing has always been around and an important part of my culture and community; however, the mainstream plays it down and does not give it the credit it deserves,” he said. “The only thing different now than before is that with the information age and the access to millions through social media it has gained a new spotlight.”

Bringing exposure to African American literature has come with other challenges.“ To be an African American business owner and/or trying to open an African American business, the obstacles are so much higher than other nationalities,” Franklin said. “There is no funding, support, ownership or encouragement.”

Running a bookstore, you find yourself surrounded by books but never finding the time to read any of them. This is something Franklin knows all too well. Despite this, he has a few authors that he considers favorites. He prefers urban literature, a genre which focuses on issues of race and city life. One of Franklin’s favorite authors of this genre is Donald Goines. Goines has written such books as Dopefiend and Daddy Cool.

Although he prefers urban literature, Franklin said he also enjoys the classics of African American literature. “I like urban literature, but then I also like Richard Wright and Robert Greene,” Franklin said. Native Son and Black Boy are among Richard Wright’s most well-known works.Black Stone is just down the street from Eastern Michigan University’s campus. Franklin said that he gets a lot of support from EMU’s African American students and professors, but he wishes that EMU as a whole would show the store more support.“

Not because it is my business, but because it is a bookstore that is local and that promotes knowledge and African American culture,” he said.Black Stone is located at 214 W. Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

–Shelby Taylor
Featured in February 2017 newsletter