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Sisterhood of Words: Onyx Book Club celebrates 20 years of growing through literature
Commission Chairman Richard Oden reads a proclaimation recognizing the Onyx Book Club day in Rockdale. - photo by Lisa Hetzel/The News

Long before Oprah started her book club, Atlanta had its own.  

In 1994, Sandra Mingo gathered a group of five friends to delve into a list of great literature.

“You know, I’ve always had a love to read. I wanted to get a lot of people to read books by African American authors,” said Mingo.

And that’s just what she did. As the group grew, their monthly meetings were held in members’ homes in Cobb and DeKalb County.  

“When we moved out here to Rockdale, we grew by leaps and bounds,” said Mingo.  The group called themselves “The Onyx Book Club” because they considered the authors and their own members “black gems.” In a brief biography of the group, Mingo wrote, ”As our club grew in numbers and across ethnicities, we decided to expand our reach to include books written by all people of color in the U.S. and abroad. “

Now, in their 20th year, the membership has grown to more than 65 readers, ranging in age between 20 and 70.  While many of the members are local, some travel from as far as Augusta for the bi-monthly meetings.

So far, they have read over 150 fiction and non-fiction books, including works by Tony Browder, Peal Cleage, Dr. Joe Lester, Gail McFarland and Waris Dirie.

Mingo said, “The books that we read challenge our thinking, help us understand the plight of individuals, families, communities, society and various ethnic groups across the globe.  We delve into complex and controversial subjects; and because everyone has a different opinion, we learn how to be more open minded or we hold fast to our own convictions.”

The topics are heavy: black male suicide, workplace discrimination, relationships, mental illness, addictions, poverty, spirituality, abuse, aging parents, entrepreneurship, and many more. 

Their enthusiasm is contagious and has inspired their co-workers, children and spouses to read.  It is also inspirational. Members became involved with the Refuge Pregnancy Center and the Hope House. Their generosity results in actively volunteering and providing financial support. 

On October 11, the group celebrated with an elegant celebration at Sandra’s home.  Members and their family enjoyed an evening of fine food and entertainment. They were also recognized by Rockdale County’s Commission Chairman Richard Oden, who delivered a proclamation declaring October 11 was “Onyx Book Club Day.” Oden said that the group deserved honor and recognition because they “empowered their membership, enriched the quality of life, encouraged literacy and increased volunteerism in our community.” 

Mingo said, “Most importantly, we are all one book closer to understanding our purpose and the ongoing work of God within and through us.” 

For more information on the Onyx Book Club, contact Sandra Mingo at