Mr. Brown's Books

During peak season 2015, UPSers delivered a wish to a man who has delivered more than 9 million books to Africa.

Robert J. Brown, a civil rights leader, and friend and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., began his mission of smuggling books into South Africa during the Apartheid.

In 1985, a trip to South Africa with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, changed Robert’s life. He visited Soweto, the largest black township in the country with around 3 million people, only to find that the town’s libraries were empty.

Robert decided to ship books to the region, beginning what is now known as the International BookSmart Foundation.

“We would be met by large crowds,” he says of the initial book shipments to the region, which were hidden in boxes of clothes. “When they found out that I had books, they were in a frenzy to get one. People would come from all over.”

For years the nonprofit was cash-strapped, however, it still managed to send more than 9 million books to the continent over the years. But logistics were unpredictable and haphazard.

Enter UPS.

In fall 2015, a team of 50 UPS volunteers from Supply Chain and several hubs in North and South Carolina got together and spent three days overhauling the International BookSmart Foundation warehouse in High Point, North Carolina.

When the UPS team arrived at the warehouse, it was packed full of books, unable to receive any more donations. The UPSer not only organized, packed, and palletized the books, but they also installed racks to leverage the warehouse’s cubic footage.

“It was an experience of a lifetime to be able to help Robert and his incredible cause,” says UPSer Dale Herzog. “He was so moved by our efforts and got teary when we showed him the big reveal. The entire team was thrilled to help bring books to the people of South Africa.”

UPS Supply Chain Solution’s team estimated the warehouse used about 30 percent of its capacity before the reengineering, a process that included reorganizing and installing additional infrastructure, conveyors, and forklifts. The result of the makeover increased the storage capacity from 1.5 million to 4 million books.

“When we first arrived, books were everywhere,” says UPSer Sharon Harris. “Everyone broke into teams, and UPSers from different hubs came together as one. It felt good to be part of something that will help others in another country. It’s a blessing to children who aren’t as fortunate to have these books for their education.”

UPS also donated three years of complimentary shipping so the nonprofit can schedule regular book deliveries. Once the books arrive in Africa, UPS will also handle the distribution to individual townships and schools.