Black Images Bookstore Shutting Down


For the last few years, there has been plenty of talk and innuendo that Black Images Book Bazaar was on the verge of shutting down. However, last week a reliable source told me that the store's last days were eminent.  Needing to hear the news for myself, I stopped by Black Images on my way home from work today.  One of the store's founders and co-owners, Ms. Emma Rodgers confirmed that what I had heard was indeed true, and that the store will close its doors at the end of December.

Black Images is the oldest black bookstore in Texas, and was founded in 1977 by Ms. Rodgers and Ms. Ashira Tosihwe.  The bookstore is located in Wynnewood Village Shopping Center in Oak Cliff, and has been an anchor there for years. 

As I talked with Ms. Rodgers at the store, her eyes said more than her words ever could.  I imagined what it will be like at the end of the month for her to walk away from the space that probably feels more like home than her own residence: never to return again. 

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Emma Rodgers and Local Authors

Black Images Book Bazaar began selling books by black authors at a time when it was believed that black books had no market.  I've often recounted how my mother would drive down to Dallas from Paris, Texas in the mid 80's just to purchase books from Ms. Rodgers.  Now that you can find black authors at any Tom, Dick and Wal-Mart, it's easy to drive right past Wynnewood Village in favor of a bigger, shinier option.

In the end, this is another story of a small business that will succumb to the bundled solutions and varied options offered by less personal retail chains and megastores.  Black Images has fallen victim to the same market forces that recently shut down Tower Records, an independent music store in the Oak Lawn area.

The demise of the independent bookstore has been well documented in recent years. Slate Magazine has a comprehensive piece on the subject in an article titled What Are Independent Bookstores Really Good For?  In our brief discussion, Ms. Rodgers spoke of how consumers are looking to get books, movies, music, and of course coffee, all in the same place. Even as she explained, I could see the wheels in her head turning on thoughts of how their business may one day be reinvented.

Though Black Images will no longer operate in its current form, the brand will continue to exist.  Ms. Rodgers will facilitate book signings for high profile authors – like a recent stop in Dallas by Tavis Smiley – as well as aspiring new writers.  I'm encouraging everyone to stop by Black Images between now and the end of the month to thank Ms. Rodgers and Ms. Tosihwe for the contributions that they have made to the city of Dallas.  The best way to show your love is to make a holiday purchase for someone on your gift list.

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