Atlanta’s For Keeps bookstore owner says Sweet Auburn spot is no mistake

The store offers rare and classic books by black authors

For Keeps in Atlanta is a bookstore/reading room offering classic and hard-to-find books by black authors. The store opened in 2018 at a time when many bookstores -- especially independent ones -- continue to shutter as online retailers dominate. Owner Rosa Duffy says “the thrill is in the hunt" when it comes to discovering rare titles. Some of her offerings include magazines from past decades and records by black icons. The store is located on Auburn Avenue, not far from Martin Luther King Jr.’s church,

Despite the slow decline in bookstore sales, Atlanta's Rosa Duffy opened her shop, For Keeps, nearly two years ago.

It’s at an iconic location that the visual artist said was no mistake.

» RELATED: Local bookstores are on the rebound, including one in East Atlanta

"Having the store where it is was intentional," she told NBC News. "I am in the middle of so much history. Auburn Avenue is an important street. And I still feel the spirit of Auburn Avenue."

The area, known as Sweet Auburn, is home to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where civil rights and Atlanta icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached. It’s also the location of the Auburn Avenue Research Library, the Atlanta Life Building, the Apex Museum and First Congregational Church of Atlanta, where Duffy had her confirmation.

Duffy’s roots are also deeply connected to the “city too busy to hate.” She is the daughter of a Spelman College graduate, and her father was a man of Morehouse College who served under three city mayors.

Duffy also has ties to history through her sister, a lawyer and president of the non-profit criminal justice publication, “The Appeal,” as well as her grandmother, Dr. Josie Johnson. She wrote the memoir “Hope In the Struggle,” about Minnesota fair housing.

» RELATED: Shop local: independent bookstores that go the extra mile

“Atlanta was the only place to do it,” Duffy said. “It’s home and I wanted it to represent the vastness of blackness and allow people to read about their history in a welcoming space.”

That welcoming space includes a host of titles encompassing black history — both well-known and unfamiliar. Titles include the sold-out Gwendolyn Brooks book, “Selected Poems,” and a signed first edition copy of Octavia Butler’s “Dawn.” Classic issues of Jet magazine are also available.

Duffy also has books that are not for sale, like her father’s 1990s Morehouse yearbook, which serve as a capsule to black history. She hopes her bookstore banishes the idea that black people are uninterested in learning about their roots.

» RELATED: Want to read more in 2020? Atlanta bookstore kicks off reading challenge

"The reality is, [some of] this stuff is in other spaces," she told Atlanta magazine. "Some of the books that I have out here right now are in an exhibit at Emory [University], but it's not inviting. It's an atmosphere where you feel like you have to be a certain type of person to go in there and look at stuff."

Her store serves as a reading room where guests can sift through material from decades ago and gives “access to something that we really don’t have access to on a regular basis.”

Open noon - 5 p.m.
For Keeps: 171 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, 30303

About the Author