OlaRonke Akinmowo: The Visionary Behind The Free Black Women’s Library

by Gee NY

OlaRonke Akinmowo is an interdisciplinary artist and the brilliant mind behind The Free Black Women’s Library, a transformative social art project that has become a beacon of culture and education.

Since its inception in 2015, the library has amassed a collection of over 5,000 books authored by Black women, complemented by an array of free public programs.

Akinmowo’s artistic expertise spans collage, papermaking, printmaking, stop-motion animation, interactive installations, and creative community praxis.

Her work is deeply rooted in engaging communities and addressing targeted issues, ideas, and literary concepts through immersive experiences.

The Free Black Women’s Library has graced numerous public spaces, including museums, art galleries, community gardens, and schools, fostering an environment where literature and art intersect to inspire and educate.

The library’s mobile nature ensures that it reaches diverse audiences across New York City, providing access to literary works that celebrate the brilliance and creativity of Black women writers.

In 2022, Akinmowo expanded her impact by opening The Reading Room, a creative coworking space that hosts community workshops and conversations.

This innovative space continues to build on the library’s mission by offering a place for reading, writing, studying, and communal engagement. Through her projects, Akinmowo has distributed thousands of books, enriching the lives of many in her community.


Akinmowo’s work as the Met Civic Practice Partnership Artist in Residence highlights her commitment to community and creativity.

During her residency, she created Obsidian, a collective of 20 Black women writers and artists who collaborate and produce work together.

This dynamic group plans to release a book titled “Pretty Little Brick” in December 2024, further showcasing the talent and diversity of Black women creators.

“Part of what inspired the project was wanting to create something that really centered the brilliance and creativity of Black women writers and the transformative possibilities that come with reading,” Akinmowo explains.

The Free Black Women’s Library serves as a third-space social art project, particularly in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is not just a collection of books; it is a vibrant community hub where visitors can attend workshops, film screenings, and critical conversations, among other enriching activities.

OlaRonke Akinmowo’s dedication to celebrating and amplifying the voices of Black women writers has created a lasting legacy.

Her innovative projects continue to inspire, educate, and empower communities, making her a true visionary in the world of art and literature.


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