Uncle Jed’s Barbershop: The Rewards of Hard Work and Determination

The Rewards of Hard Work and Determination

As one would expect, book store owners are readers. They must read—Because they are frequently called upon to recommend books as gifts, for children, for schools for husbands, for wives. Often people would ask for suggestions for their own reading pleasure. I feel that in order to be authentic, it was important that I read almost all of the African/inspired books we had on the shelves.

Brick and mortar Burke’s bookstore carried a large selection of both adult and children’s titles—most of which were carefully, mindfully, and lovingly selected. For us, it is critical that we represent our history and culture respectfully and accurately.

Dare I say that most of the children’s books are my all-time favorite, but the title that I want to share with you in this summary is, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell.

The story is told through the eyes of Uncle Jed’s niece who spent much time with him and admired him for his generosity, hard work, and kindness. Uncle Jed traveled far and wide to help his family and community with their barbering needs —even though it was during the depression (1920’s) and funds were scarce. And much like Martin Luther King, he had a dream.

Uncle Jed was saving up his earnings and sacrificing so that he would open his own barbershop with fancy equipment, sinks so shiny that they sparkle, floors so clean, you could see yourself…And most important of all outside was going to be a big, tall-red red and white barber pole.  

Uncle Jed’s life was not unlike that of most African Americans during that period… They knew that it would take hard work, dedication, and determination to accomplish their dreams.

Uncle Jed had to overcome a number of obstacles and setbacks, but he never abandoned his dream. Eventually, at age 79, he opened his barbershop.

Although this story took place in the 1920’s, it speaks to common themes in the life of African Americans. It is a story about hope, hard work, determination and resilience.

Learn More: Uncle Jed’s Bookstore


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