A beloved Black-run bookstore in Los Angeles is closing

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, May 20, 2024

A beloved Black-run bookstore in Los Angeles is closing
James Fugate, the co-owner of Eso Won Books, in Los Angeles, on Aug 27, 2020. Eso Won Books has championed Black writers for more than three decades, but the store is closing by the end of the year, its co-founder says. Erik Carter/The New York Times.

by Livia Albeck-Ripka

LOS ANGELES, CA.- When James Fugate and Tom Hamilton started Eso Won Books in 1988, their books, almost all by Black authors, were stacked in dozens of crates; some in Fugate’s apartment, the rest in Hamilton’s garage.

Nearly every weekend, at least one of them would haul their books to a community event in Los Angeles. Whatever money they made selling books, they spent on books. Soon, customers were coming to their homes, asking for specific titles.

In 1989, Hamilton and Fugate opened the brick-and-mortar store Eso Won Books in the bedroom of an old house on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles. At the time, it was one of only a few Black-run bookstores in the city.

In the more than three decades since, the store has hosted luminaries including Muhammad Ali, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. It has become a home for Black authors, a revered fixture of Los Angeles and a place that residents have turned to for guidance in moments of political upheaval.

But now, Eso Won Books is closing.

“I’m just tired,” Fugate said Monday while sitting in his office behind the store, which is now based in Leimert Park, a largely Black neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

On the desk beside him was a stack of copies of “Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition” by Cedric J. Robinson. In a box beneath the desk were several copies of Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Raise an Antiracist.”

Fugate, who grew up in Detroit and is now 67, said his love of books was instilled in him from a young age. His mother would read Dr. Seuss to him and his brother. Every week, he would go to the local library. But after a lifetime in the book business, Fugate said, the time has finally come to retire.

Before opening Eso Won, Fugate spent several years running college bookstores. He would often sell the stores’ books at weekend community events. But eventually, he got frustrated; he wanted to create something that would put money back into the community and champion Black writers.

“I felt uncomfortable,” Fugate said. “This should be a Black store.”

By the early 1990s, Eso Won had outgrown its premises on Slauson Avenue. Fugate and Hamilton moved the store to Inglewood. There, they hosted Elaine Brown of the Black Panther Party and Barack Obama, a little-known writer at the time who was on his book tour for “Dreams From My Father.”

“One of the only places that took me was Eso Won Books, back when nobody knew who I was and couldn’t pronounce my name,” the former president said in an interview last year with Fugate and Hamilton.

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates has described Eso Won as watering the roots of the Black literary canon.

“In much the same way we need diversity among authors and editors, we need diversity among the ranks of booksellers,” Coates said in 2016. “They are the ultimate arbiters of our literary tradition.”

Presciently, he added: “In these coming dark times, we can scarcely afford to be without them.”

In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, that need was palpable. Eso Won was inundated with customers.

“That was the most unbelievable thing ever,” Fugate said. “In one day, we had over 1,000 orders. “People from all over the country were ordering books.”

But business has since slowed down, and Fugate said he and Hamilton plan to close the store by the end of the year. The men have received some proposals from those wanting to keep the store open, but Fugate said it was not likely that he would accept them.

Many are devastated, but Fugate said he believed that Eso Won’s closing would not leave the city bereft of Black-run bookstores.

Now, there are several in the city.

“The world changed,” Fugate said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

July 2, 2022

Germany begins return of Benin bronzes to Nigeria

Visiting Venice? Make a reservation and be ready to pay.

Sotheby's announces auction of critical precursor to the Bill of Rights

Director of the Chinati Foundation in Marfa to step down

"Imagine a world without photojournalism" exhibit marks Monroe Gallery's 20th anniversary in Santa Fe

Foreland, an art complex with big ambitions, grows in Catskill

New-York Historical Society's new exhibition showcases the works of Winold Reiss

Exhibition explores fiber as a medium for critical and exploratory possibility

M 2 3 opens an exhibition of new work by Erik Nilson

45 designers from over 20 countries feature in landmark Africa Fashion exhibition

Exhibition of new works by Todd Bienvenu opens at Almine Rech New York

"Passion and Patronage Gifts from the Gerald Mead Collection" on view at the Castellani Art Museum

"Elemental Matters": Jonathan Prince sculpture exhibit opens at Chesterwood

Maruani Mercier announces representation of Nigerian artist Johnson Eziefula

Richard Taruskin, vigorously polemical musicologist, dies at 77

'The Mutes' gives voice to musical outsiders

Rare bronze 1943 Lincoln cent, called 'most sought-after error coin of all time,' comes to Heritage Auctions

Crescent City announces highlights included in Important Summer Estates Auction

M77 Gallery presents 'Charlotte Perriand: The Avant-Garde is Female curated by Enrica Viganò'

Emma Talbot premieres new work at Whitechapel Gallery

A beloved Black-run bookstore in Los Angeles is closing

'Long live the theater': Mariupol's drama company to perform again

Maya Vinitsky has been appointed as Curator of Design and Architecture at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The New Shopware 6 Webshop

19th-century Murik mask among highlights in Heritage Ethnographic Art Auction

Pinoy Teleserye Replay Orihinal na may Pinoy Tv

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful