Community Liberation Through Black Literature


By: Jordan Meadows

Staff Writer

What started as a pop-up shop in 2019 has now evolved into a groundbreaking establishment in downtown Raleigh – Liberation Station Bookstore – and the first of its kind in North Carolina. 

Victoria Scott-Miller, the co-visionary behind Liberation Station, is not only the owner of the globally recognized bookstore but also an accomplished author and documentarian. 

Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Scott-Miller went to Middle Tennessee State University where she met her husband, Duane. Shortly after, the couple moved to Charleston, South Carolina, due to opportunities with the U.S. Navy. Here is where they would have their first son, Langston. 

After this venture, they took another opportunity to move; this time to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for seven years. After the Navy, the couple would do something spontaneous: randomly choosing the Triangle as their next destination while having no family and no connection to the region. It was here where they had their second son, Emmerson.

“We just put our finger on a map and said that wherever it landed that’s where we would go, and it landed in Raleigh, North Carolina,” Scott-Miller said. 

In 2017, Scott-Miller’s father, a historical photographer, passed away. She stumbled upon some artifacts of her father’s that were papers dated in the 1800’s. As it turned out, to Scott-Miller’s astonishment, these papers turned out to be the writings of Frederick Douglass, the famous 19th-century abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. This experience could be seen as a manifestation of the purpose of Scott-Miller’s bookstore. 

Liberation Station, with its focus on children’s literature by Black authors, illustrators, and publishers, officially opened its doors on Juneteenth weekend in 2023, marking a significant milestone in the family’s journey to provide a space where children can see themselves reflected in literature. 

The supply of books depicting black culture and characters was very limited in large chain bookstores. This inspired the family to start a bookstore, which would be through a mobile pop-up from 2019 to 2023, with the family initially spending $200 to acquire 113 books. Liberation Station now displays thousands of titles and has become a beacon to children all over the state to find books that feature people of color. Scott-Miller credits both her son’s creativity and her husband’s support for the creation of Liberation Station.

“Our youngest son, Emmerson, loved trains and he loved mobility. We thought about what liberation could look like, having a mobile footprint,” Scott-Miller said. “Not being stationary really allowed us to activate this work in a way we hadn’t seen before and hadn’t experienced.”

She went on to explain that being raised in Memphis, a predominantly black town, she had experienced being educated by black educators and accessibility to black entrepreneurs. Then, coming to Raleigh a new parent, she could see an unfulfilled gap within the community in regards to sharing these experiences. 

“Liberation Station really is an extension of our home library and the stories we choose to hold onto, the stories we grew up with, and what we were noticing is that our children did not have points of connection with community members,” Scott-Miller said. “Our primary goal with Liberation Station is accessibility; we don’t want children to have to go on a scavenger hunt and spend hours looking at stories because then they get deterred from reading at all.”

Liberation Station also utilizes other initiatives for children, including a Black Boys Comic Book Club. This club, for boys aged 8 to 13, introduces children to black storytelling, such as the satire of “The Boondocks” television series. They also discuss what it means to tell your story, and to stand up for yourself, all the while learning reading and writing skills. 

The impact of Scott-Miller’s work extends beyond the bookstore. In 2021, she achieved a historic milestone by being inducted as the youngest and first African American woman into the Wake County Public School Hall of Fame for Entrepreneurship. 

A year later, she was commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Art as the author and creative director for “The Museum Lives in Me” series, becoming the first African American to receive such a commission in the museum’s history. Today, her children’s book is available in every public elementary school and NC Cardinal library in the state. 

Scott-Miller emphasizes the importance of providing a space where children can be curious and not burdened by societal expectations. In creating Liberation Station, Scott-Miller has not only addressed a gap in the market but has also ignited a movement for greater representation in children’s literature. The impact of her vision extends far beyond the shelves, influencing the way children see themselves and the possibilities that lie ahead.

“If we don’t have access, we can’t talk about literacy. We have to be able to engage children in desiring to read,” Scott-Miller said. “When children come in, they feel that they can share their opinion – they help to co-create our space. If they don’t see a book or topic that they like, or that we don’t have, they help us to expand. It’s an opportunity for us to create a communal environment where children are actually able to have an opinion.”

Scott-Miller is a strong proponent of creativity and authenticity. She says attempts to keep up with societal trends and standards aren’t her goal; instead, when she has a creative idea, she tells the world. If it is accepted, it must’ve had a place for it – some problem or gap that needed fulfillment. 

The endeavors of the Miller family have garnered significant attention. Prominent media entities such as CNN, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, NPR, and ABC have featured stories on the bookstore and the family’s unwavering dedication.

On Tuesday, Liberation Station announced they are moving from Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh on April 30th, due to what they say are death threats, hate mail, and a general lack of safety. The store will remain operational until April 13th.

“Since September, we’ve faced numerous threats following the opening of our store. Some we brushed off, while others included a disturbing phone call detailing what our son Langston wore when he was at the shop alone,” Liberation Station said in a post on Instagram. “In response, we’ve been strategizing within our means to avoid being targeted…Despite the challenges, our bookstore has brought immense joy, and we’ve been determined not to become another headline of controversy. We’ve worked tirelessly to create a safe space not just for our community but for our own family as well.”

Empire Properties, the leasing company of Liberation Station’s store, said they hired additional security once the reports were initially filed. 

“After a safety concern about downtown Raleigh was reported in mid-July, we hired private security for the building with The Renfrow Group (the group that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance later hired for private security throughout downtown Raleigh),” Empire Properties said. “We haven’t heard anything similar from other tenants. We were unaware of any threats when she gave notice of her intent to end her lease on Jan. 5, 2024.”

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) said they first learned of the threats on April 1st, a day before Liberation Station made it public through a posting on Instagram. They continued by saying they are “committed to making Downtown a vibrant and supportive place for everyone. As an organization, and as a part of the greater Downtown community, we condemn any acts of violence or threatening conduct and are saddened when we hear about any member of our community experiencing harassment or discriminatory behavior,” DRA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The DRA explained that in the fall of 2023, they hired “private security patrols in the Downtown area” as well as having “Ambassador patrols support and supplement the work of the Raleigh Police Department and its ongoing efforts to fight criminal activity of all kinds.” 

“Any reports of harassment or violence are disheartening and have no place in our community,” DRA said in a statement.

“It certainly won’t mark the end of Liberation Station Bookstore. There is so much more work to be done,” Scott-Miller said on Tuesday. 

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