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New, mural unveiling reveals rich history of the oldest Black bookstore in the nation, Marcus Books

By ONME Newswire

OAKLAND,Calif.--On Sunday, Nov. 19, a new mural was unveiled at Marcus Books, the oldest bookstore in the country specializing in African American literature, history and culture, located on 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way in Oakland, CA.

The mural unveiling was part of a larger collaboration between Clean California, Keep Oakland Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful, Keep California Beautiful, Urban Compassion Project and members of the Oakland community to clean up and beautify the area around Marcus Books and Grove Shafter Park. The mural was created by the art collaborative, Aero Soul.

60 years since its opening, Marcus Book has become a literary and cultural hallmark that has hosted iconic authors including Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley, Angela Davis, Terry McMillan, Chaka Khan, Michael Eric Dyson, Iyanla Vanzant, Sister Souljah, Nikki Giovanni, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patti LaBelle and so many more of our treasured voices. Just as important are the bookclubs, intimate poetry readings, and countless customer conversations that unfold at Marcus.

“Marcus Books has operated on Martin Luther King Way since 1976," said store manager, Blanche Richardson. “It’s heartwarming to see the community come together, out of pride in our Oakland neighborhoods, to clean it up and unveil a new mural as a symbol of how beautiful our city is and should remain.”

Marcus Books, the oldest Black bookstore in the country and named after Marcus Garvey, closed its doors (actually the locks were changed) at 1712 Fillmore Street, San Francisco in May of 2014, according to

A historic site of Black culture in America, providing books by and about Black people, the family-run bookstore hosted many of the nation’s greatest Black figures and provided an intellectual and social meeting space for Black issues.

Marcus Books was founded in 1960 by Dr. Julian and Dr. Raye Richardson in San Francisco's Fillmore district--once called "Harlem of the West." As redevelopment swept the Western Addition devastating the Black community that thrived there, Marcus Books was forced to relocate several times before landing at 1712 Fillmore in 1981. As co-owner Karen Johnson described, “We’re the only Black business that returned to the Fillmore.”

Many African Americans viewed redevelopment as an attempt by city government to permanently remove the Black population from San Francisco. The building the bookstore eventually settled in was formerly the iconic jazz club, Jimbo’s Bop City, which operated three blocks away from 1950 – 1965. As redevelopment was tearing down houses, the Victorian that Bop City was formerly housed in was preserved and ended up at its current location at 1712 Fillmore. Due to the redevelopment situation, in 1976, Marcus Books opened a second store in Oakland, located at 3900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, which still thrives today.


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