By founding North Carolina’s first Black-owned children’s bookstore, Victoria Scott-Miller created a safe space for personal discovery.
Words and photographs Colony Little
Within the vibrantly painted walls of a small studio space on Fayetteville Street, big dreams are being fulfilled as North Carolina’s first Black-owned children’s bookstore opened its doors to the public on Saturday June 17th. Liberation Station contains over 1,000 books featuring diverse authors that center African-American subjects and African Diasporic themes. The brick and mortar space, just steps away from Raleigh’s historic Black Main Street, is the latest iteration of Liberation Station’s mission to bring children’s literature to kids who are searching for themselves in the stories they read.
The seeds for Liberation Station were first planted when founder Victoria Scott-Miller struggled to find positive, affirming stories featuring Black protagonists at traditional bookstores. In a story shared across national media, Victoria and her family searched a national bookstore chain for Black-centric books, only to leave after more than four hours with just five books for her two sons.
Deflated but not defeated, Victoria and her husband Duane Miller channeled that energy and $200 into creating their own mobile bookstore, which they operated from their 2011 Chevy Cruz. Over the next two years, Victoria hosted pop-ups, residencies, storytime gatherings, and Black Lit Libraries at the Durham Hotel, VAE, NCMA, CAM, Duke and other organizations that supported Liberation Station’s unique, trailblazing mission to share positive depictions of Blackness in literature to children.
Photography by Winter Miller | courtesy Liberation Station
With the new brick-and-mortar bookstore, the Miller family is cultivating a community of care through books, conversations, and special events that encourage enchantment, wonder, and curiosity. From the moment visitors experience the vibrantly painted mural of a bespeckled sun smiling down on an open book, they are in a safe, affirming space. Here, every detail is considered, from the sage colored paint on the walls to the tiny mustard seeds Victoria hand placed onto the mural wall (they spell out a message in Braille), to the oak shelves that the books rest upon.
“When you have a smaller space, you’re forced to think about intention,” says Scott-Miller, who took time out of her busy schedule to host a small preview just days before the opening. Every book featured on the shelves was handpicked by the Miller family, including her two sons Langston and Emerson. The center of the store features two round tables that contain adult and children’s books that complement one another and foster an intergenerational dialog on topics ranging from cooking to astronomy.
Miller shared an example of this pairing featuring books about the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis. The first book, titled Chef Edna: Queen of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis features a pastel illustration of Lewis, affectionately known as “Chef Edna,” surrounded by pink cherry blossoms and verdant green leaves as she gently embraces a small family gathering of children and adults enjoying a meal together at a table. The book, recommended for readers between 4 and 8 years old, shares her life stories about growing up on a farm and the unique experiences that helped her to become a respected culinary legend. Next to the book is a copy of Edna Lewis: In Pursuit of Flavor, a rich tome of recipes and stories about Southern cooking. The cookbook was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame.
The titles of the books at Liberation Station transport visitors through time and space, examining the history of Nat Turner and exploring the mysteries of the cosmos. There is literally something for everyone. The store’s pedagogical roots lie in research and scholarship by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop who likens literature to “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.” These books are vital mirrors to Black children that reflect and affirm their lived experiences; they also provide glimpses into worlds that are very different from their own. The bookstore is also an expansive, evolving repository of learning for non-Black children to learn more about the world around them. As sliding glass doors, literature provides everyone with this opportunity to step into another’s shoes, encouraging them to see and experience life through a different set of eyes.
The Liberation Station Bookstore is much more than a brick and mortar store. At its core, it is a community that is committed to providing a safe space for curiosity, creativity, and learning in an era of banned books and educational regressions. The Liberation Station Bookstore received some of its funding through a successful campaign that showed Miller how engaged and committed the Triangle community is to their mission. When I asked Victoria about any surprises that she discovered through the process of opening this store, Scott-Miller thoughtfully shared, “growth and expansiveness requires you to step outside of yourself and to be vulnerable. We were most surprised by the receptiveness to that vulnerability. They were ready to say ‘yes’. That was surprising, exciting and empowering.”
Over its opening weekend, Liberation Station Bookstore hosted a series of events to thank the community for its support and welcome people into its space. On Saturday, June 17th the store opened with a ribbon cutting, musical performance, book signings, arts and crafts for the kids, and treats. On Sunday June 18th, the bookstore celebrated Father’s Day by handing out flowers to Dads and offering young visitors an opportunity to experience historical papers during “White Glove Day”. On Monday, June 19th, Liberation Station Bookstore celebrated Juneteenth with a special Liberation Walk led by author and equestrian Caitlin Gooch. After the walk from the Capitol to the bookstore, Gooch, also known as “the Black Cowgirl”, signed copies of her book at the store.
The fruits of Victoria’s seed planting were evident all weekend as the community showed their support and enthusiasm for this important space. And one special visitor in particular received a loving message in those tiny mustard seeds. The mural doubles as an affirmation wall, and the mustard seeds spell out positive messages of encouragement in Braille. Scott-Miller shared a touching moment where she spotted a young man holding a white mobility cane who was fastidiously reading the wall. She asked him, “Do you like seeing this?” He gave Victoria a knowing smile and said “Yes, I can see where Braille dots are, ‘cause they’re little circles.” Victoria affirmed, “They are, and what do they say?” The child replied, “You are art.” Victoria had one more important question for him. “And do you know that you are art?” His face beamed with a bright smile and a confident nod, “Yes.”
For details on the regular hours of operation,, please see the Liberation Station Bookstore’s Instagram page.
This article was original published on waltermagazine.com on June 19, 2023.