Marcus Books, based in Oakland, California, is known as the nation’s oldest Black-owned bookstore. Founded by the Richardson family in the 1960s, the establishment is still going strong. It is still very relevant in the publishing world, allowing Black history and creativity to be recognized and preserved.
Dr. Julian Richardson and his wife, Dr. Raye Richardson, established what was initially called Success Book Store in San Francisco’s Fillmore district inside their printing shop. It was eventually named Marcus Books in honor of the political leader and publisher, Marcus Garvey.
Their children now manage the family-owned bookstore. Karen Johnson, their daughter, said his father has always wanted to open a bookstore “for and by Black people.” And even though some of their bookstore locations were closed due to rising rents, they are proud that the Oakland location is still thriving.
Some of their loyal patrons include educators who are finding books that are usually not available in larger publishers as well as new authors who are interested in having their books on the shelves of Marcus Books.
“I used to go there when it was in the Fillmore,” Maureen Sullivan, a teacher-librarian, told Fox KTVU. “It’s an institution. It’s too bad that it’s no longer in San Francisco, and there’s hope that will happen again. I’m happy that Marcus Books still thrives in Oakland.”
“I’ve known about this place since college,” said new author Daud Jadi. “For me, it was a natural thing, a natural progression, to come here first because if I can get my book in Marcus Bookstore, then I’ve accomplished something in my life.”
Within its nearly 60 years in the business, Marcus Books has also been graced with the presence of several authors, celebrities, and speakers such as Muhammad Ali, Patti LaBelle, Barry White, B.B. King, and Rosa Parks. It also hosted several organizations, including the Association of Black Policeman, the Black Firefighters Association, the Black Nurses Association, among others.