They Attacked Him For Running A Radical Bookstore, But He Fought Back

Portrait of Martin Sostre
Zain Murdock
August 25, 2021

After undergoing a political transformation in Attica Prison, Martin Sostre knew he had work to do when he got out. So in 1964, he opened the Afro-Asian Book Shop in Buffalo, NY. He enjoyed mentoring Black youth and let them read radical literature for free.

But little did he know, his new bookstore would land him with a 30-year prison sentence! Why?

A detective came by. Selling radical books “can get you in trouble,” he threatened – but Sostre kept the store open. In the spring, firefighters broke in and doused his books with water! Sostre replaced them. 

During the summer uprisings of 1967, his shop stood tall as a beacon of liberation. So police raided his bookstore and arrested him! That didn’t stop Sostre from fighting back. 

At his hearing, Sostre called out the anti-Blackness of the bail system. His bail was $50,000 because police said he was rich from “selling drugs.” But when Judge Jacob Latona denied the obvious set up, Sostre had had enough.

“You are nothing but a white racial bigot in judicial robes and you know it!” he yelled. “Nothing but a Southern racist, Northern style!” So Latona demanded he be bound and gagged!

The exhausting lengths authorities went to silence Sostre makes one thing clear: When we take control of our own education, they fear that we’ll challenge their systems and win!

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack is a nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:

  • We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK NEWS & HISTORY STORIES every year.
  • We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
  • We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.

And as a nonprofit, we rely on small donations from subscribers like you.

With as little as $5 a month, you can help PushBlack raise up Black voices. It only takes a minute, so will you please ?

Share This Article: