Philadelphia’s Oldest Black Bookstore From 1950s Officially Granted Historical Marker


by Veracity Savant

October 4, 2023

Dawud Abdel Hakim founded Hakim’s Bookstore in 1959, with the goal of strengthening the African American community, The Grio reports. Initially selling books from the trunk of his car, Hakim eventually opened the first brick-and-mortar store in West Philadelphia during the height of the Black Power movement. Dedicated to his mission, Hakim was committed to educating people about the history of Black people that predated slavery in the U.S.

As a result, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover claimed bookstores like Hakim’s were “outlets for revolutionary and hate publications and culture centers for extremism.” Despite the challenges, Hakim forged forward, continuing the goal of educating his community despite making a profit and working as an accountant for the city to support his wife and three children.

“My father recognized we had a history that didn’t start with slavery. We had a place and contributed to the wealth of this country and were not second-class citizens,” Hakim’s daughter, Yvonne Blake, said. 

 By 1980, Hakim was fortunate enough to expand operations, opening a second bookstore in Atlanta while teaching history at Morehouse College.


When Hakim passed away in 1997, Blake took over operations for her father. While she wanted to keep the legacy alive, she too struggled with making the bookstore profitable. She eventually had to close the Atlanta location — since she had no nearby relatives to run the shop. However, the Philly location remained. And after more than six decades in business, Hakim’s Bookstore has officially been granted a historical marker by the state of Pennsylvania. 

“My father would have been overwhelmed. It would have brought tears to his eyes,” Blake said of the momentous occasion. 

More than 100 friends, customers, and family members gathered recently to honor Hakim’s legacy and celebrate the historical marker for the bookstore. Blake said she sought out to keep the bookstore going as long as she could and is grateful to finally see her father’s work memorialized in this way.

Amy Lambert, president of the University City Historical Society, led the charge to get the bookstore designated as a historical monument. After the long and arduous process, there is a sigh of relief for Blake and the future of her father’s legacy. 


State Senator Vincent Hughes was present for the celebrations, speaking about the importance of Hakim’s work and his bookstore and why it’s important to continue to do the work of preserving Black historical landmarks. 

“In 1959 it was not popular to talk about Black history. To be in business for 64 years is no small feat…It has not been a thing to lift up Black history with these markers. Not it is the standard,” Hughes said. 

Photo by Hakim’s Bookstore


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