To commemorate Black History Month this February, Visit Philadelphia launched Little Free(dom) Library, an initiative encouraging visitors and residents to explore Black history and narratives. In partnership with us, Visit Philadelphia’s Little Free(dom) Library activation features 13 Little Free Libraries that will house banned books by Black authors.
According to Penn America, more than 30 states have banned certain books by Black authors—both fiction and non-fiction—or otherwise deemed them inappropriate. In response, the Little Free(dom) Library initiative demonstrates Philadelphia’s commitment, as the birthplace of the nation, to making these stories accessible and available to both visitors and residents.
“Philadelphia strives to be a welcoming destination where every person can feel a sense of belonging,” said Angela Val, president and CEO, Visit Philadelphia. “We take pride in celebrating Philadelphia as the cradle of liberty, while also recognizing the complexity of its history. We want travelers and residents to know that in Philadelphia, Black history is American history, and Black stories are worth telling and sharing.”
Bold, vibrant artwork and uplifting expressions adorn each Little Free(dom) Library designed by local, self-taught artist Alloyius Mcilwaine. The Little Free(dom) Library sites work like the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up in communities across the country and function on an optional take-one-leave-one system.
“We are excited to partner with Visit Philadelphia on this new initiative,” said Little Free Library Executive Director Greig Metzger. “Part of our mission is to expand book access for all, and this activation does just that.”
The Little Free(dom) Library trail includes the following locations:
- Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street
- Columbia North YMCA, 1400 N. Broad Street
- Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, 2027 Fairmount Avenue
- Faheem’s Hands of Precision, 2100 S. 20th Street
- Frankford Community Development Corporation, 4667 Paul Street
- Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
- Historic Germantown, 5501 Germantown Avenue
- Johnson House Historic Site, 6306 Germantown Avenue
- Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, 419 S. 6th Street
- Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- The Independence Visitor Center, 599 Market Street
- The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad Street
- South Street Street Off Center, 407 South Street
Visit Philadelphia collaborated with local community leaders, organizations and small business owners to select the initial books available in the libraries. Visitors and residents can find a mix of banned or challenged, fiction and non-fiction books for adults, teens and children. Some of the titles include The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones, All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M Johnson and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.
All books were purchased from Black-owned bookstores in the region including Black and Nobel, Hakim’s Bookstore & Gift Shop, Harriet’s Bookshop, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and The Black Reserve Bookstore.