From Atlanta to Marseille, archivists work to preserve Black and colonized literature
From left: French publisher Lydia Amarouche and Rosa Duffy, proprietor of Atlanta's For Keeps bookstore.

On Saturday, April 15, Atlantans gathered at Atlanta Contemporary to listen to an artist talk by local Rosa Duffy and Lydia Amarouche of Marseille, France. While the two panelists are separated by the vast Atlantic, their paths share a thread in their focus and work around archiving historical literature, with a focus on Black and colonial history.

In France, Amarouche operates SHED Publishing, an independent platform which publishes essays focusing on social and political theory. Meanwhile, in the Peach State, Duffy owns and operates For Keeps, a bookstore located in the heart of historic Auburn Ave.

For Keeps features a vast collection of one-of-a-kind archived literature, all by Black authors, as a way to demystify archives and make them more accessible to the general public.

The panel discussion, hosted by Atlanta Contemporary Director Floyd Hall, focused on the necessity, both in Georgia and abroad, to archive and preserve Black and colonized culture. In front of a projected backdrop of Atlanta legends Gucci Mane and Young Thug music videos, the two artists explained their personal philosophy around literature preservation.

According to Duffy, the whole point behind For Keeps is to find a way to make historical Black literature approachable and accessible to audiences that have historically had trouble accessing these types of documents.

Duffy remarked that she “encourages loitering” in her bookstore, with no purchases necessary just to hang out and read in the bottom floor unit of the larger building For Keeps sits in. Duffy doesn’t require a library card to enter and certainly doesn’t want the guests to feel as if they “need to be a member of some society to be at For Keeps.”

Amarouche, on the other hand, finds her spirit of resistance in turning the history of using literature to colonize on its head. Amarouche noted in her talking points that colonial countries have historically used libraries as a way to control thought and information in the countries that they colonized. With the power of independent bookstores and publishing houses, Amarouche wants to take control of the power of literature to explore queer, colonial, and feminist issues.

While the two archivists differ in exact approaches to preserving and presenting literature, their shared giggles and glances towards each other during the panel hinted at a sense of camaraderie in the face of corporate bookstores like Barnes and Nobles. Duffy made sure to shoutout several other Black-centered independent bookstores in Atlanta, such as Charis, Yes Please, and 44th and 3rd.

Amarouche, coming from the coastal French city of Marseille, noted how there are laws in place in France to help preserve independent bookstores, such as lower taxes on books.

While the landscapes of independent bookstores in Atlanta and Marseille vastly differ, the two active archivists from both cities came together to share knowledge with a crowd eager to learn more about the pair’s philosophy and journey to archiving historical literature.

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Erica Meade
Erica Meade

Erica Meade is an organizer with the Angelo Herndon Club in Atlanta, Georgia. She got her start in political organizing through mutual aid in D.C., her hometown, before becoming involved with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.