March 2014 | Nate Pedersen

Oldest Black Bookstore in America Faces Closure


Marcus Books, a landmark Black bookshop in San Francisco, may close its doors if it is unable to raise $1 million in funding to purchase their building. The bookshop has launched a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of raising the necessary capital.

Marcus Books was the brainchild of Julian and Raye Richardson, who founded the shop under the name Success Book Store in 1960.  Ten years later, after an inspired reading of Marcus Garvey's Philosophy and Opinions, the Richardsons renamed their shop "Marcus Books." The store moved to its present location on Fillmore St, between Sutter and Post, in 1981. 

Continuously in operation for 53 years, the bookshop has claimed the distinction of being the oldest Black bookshop in America. The shop has also become a cornerstone of African American literary culture, hosting readings from everyone from Malcolm X to Oprah.

The current owners of Marcus Books - Gregory and Karen Johnson - reached an agreement with the building owners: if the store can raise $2.6m, the San Francisco Community Land Trust will purchase the building, letting Marcus Books stay as its tenant in perpetuity.

Marcus Books raised over half of the amount before turning to crowdsourcing for the final $1m.

[Image from GoFundMe campaign]