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Brief Published: 4 Nov 2021

US Musicians’ Free Black Libraries Democratise Literature

Extra
Saint Heron Community Library Season 1

Open-sourcing knowledge for underserved communities and reshaping institutions that have long overlooked Black writers due to deep-set prejudices, US singer Solange Knowles has launched a free community library through her creative studio Saint Heron.

The collection boasts a selection of rare and out-of-print works by Black authors, including art anthologies, poems, novels, zines and history books that anyone in the US can borrow from (for a total of 45 days). Signalling the scheme's instant popularity, all titles are currently unavailable.

Titles on offer include Langston Hughes's Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), a groundbreaking prose collection on US race relations, and multiple poetry anthologies by self-described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" Audre Lorde.

The first 'season' of the Saint Heron Community Library has been curated by Rosa Duffy, founder of Atlanta's For Keeps bookstore, a shop for rare and classic books by Black authors. In an on-site interview, Duffy also explains the rationale behind her picks.

The launch of Saint Heron's community library comes just two weeks after American rapper and poet Noname opened the Radical Hood Library in Los Angeles that follows a similar line of thinking.

Noname explained that books by Black activists are "near impossible to find in state libraries. Their books are curated to service the largest demographic in the US... whites". Stocked with books on Black resistance and imperialism (also available for free), Noname's library is themed around topics including F**k the Police, and Young Homies Books, which offers radical texts for children.

For similar curations of culture in the UK, see Arts & Culture: Acknowledging Black Talent in UK Black History Month 2021.

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