By Megan Sayles
Bookshop.org, an ethical online marketplace that supports local bookstores, launched a book donation program to celebrate the publication of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” and Black Garnet Books, the only Black-owned bookstore in Minnesota, is leading the effort.
The book drive, which is in partnership with Random House imprint One World, began in November and ends Jan. 31. Through Bookshop.org, customers can buy a copy of Hannah-Jones’ latest work from independent bookstores that will then be sent to local organizations that include schools, libraries and book banks.
“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” is a substantial expansion of The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning reframing of American history, which places slavery and its continuing effects at the center of the country’s narrative. It weaves together 18 essays and features 36 poems and works of fiction.
Of the 5,926 copies already donated, Black Garnet Books alone has contributed over 700 books. Dionne Sims, owner of Black Garnet Books, wanted to join the donation program because of her appreciation for Hannah-Jones’ analysis of race and culture in the United States.
Sims first chose Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis for the book donation program and set a goal of 140 copies for the school’s freshman U.S. history classes. Now that she’s exceeded that goal, Sims has been able to donate to about 10 other schools and youth organizations across Minneapolis.
“I remember my high school history classes honestly really didn’t even touch on slavery. They were very focused on European history, as well as American history but from a very White, Eurocentric lens,” said Sims. “I never really got a comprehensive education about slavery and the ways in which it still affects current affairs [and] laws, so if I can get this book into the hands of kids that would be really cool.”
Sims founded Black Garnet Books during the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. Books had always been a way for her to feel more connected to herself and to process her emotions, but the closest Black-owned bookstore was in Chicago.
She tweeted that opening a Black-owned bookstore in Minnesota was her new dream, and there was an outpouring of support for the endeavor. This summer, Black Garnet Books will open its new permanent location in Saint Paul.
For Sims, “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” has the opportunity to teach youth why and how racism carries on today by examining the long-lasting, systemic impacts of slavery and Jim Crow laws.
“I’m hoping that if we can get our kids to understand this at a young age that they’ll grow into adults who can really harness that information to make change a lot sooner than those of us who’ve learned later in life can,” said Sims.