Summer Reads: Congo Square, Jim Crow and Ida B. Wells!

The fifth in our series of must-read recommendations from independent booksellers. This week: Community Book Center in New Orleans

By Julianne Hing Aug 27, 2013

We’ve surveyed a number of independent bookstores to ask, ‘What should we be reading this summer?’ Check out all of the recommendations in our summer reading series.

Vera Warren-Williams opened New Orleans’ Community Book Center because she was always disappointed in lack of African-American literature available to kids in the public school system. "I would bring books from my personal library to share with children and it had a profound effect on them," Warren-Williams says. "It was powerful for them to be able to see themselves in these books." This September marks the store’s 30th anniversary and Warren-Williams says she’s holding on to see what the next chapter will bring. Here are her picks:

1. "Congo Square" by Freddi Williams Evans (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2011)

"Congo Square here in New Orleans was a place for free and enslaved Africans to gather together on Sundays. It was a marketplace to perpetuate African culture and it is believed that because of Congo Square, New Orleans is one of the cities that has really retained African culture. The drums and dance and culture weren’t suppressed as much as they were in other places. ‘Congo Square’ is one of the most comprehensive pieces done on this very important part of history, and it’s by an African-American woman."

2. "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander (The New Press, 2010)

"I recommend "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander. As soon as a shipment comes into the store it goes back out of the door because folks [love] it."

3. "Ida: A Sword Among Lions" by Paula J. Giddings (Harper Paperbacks, 2009)

"’Ida’ is a biography of the journalist and it covers [her] campaign against lynching. It really tells the story of her life and what she stood for in a time when it was risky business to even approach  lynching. [Wells] was a real crusader, you know. She risked her own life to fight against lynching. As soon as we get this book in, just like the Michelle Alexander one, people buy it up."