Doors Shuttered at Nation’s Oldest Black Bookstore

Marcus Books

Over nearly four decades, San Francisco’s Marcus Books served as a cultural Mecca for black writers, authors and just plain bibliophiles.

The nation’s oldest black book store played host to scores of writers and speakers' events, including James Baldwin, Dave Chappelle, Malcolm X, Alice Walker, Willie Brown, Jackie Robinson, Angela Davis, Barry White, Wesley Snipes and dozens of others, according to Bay City News.


But the doors were shuttered Tuesday after the owners fell behind in rent payments, the report says.

“The current property owner has changed the locks to the door of 1712 Fillmore St.,” the store's co-owners Karen and Greg Johnson wrote in an open letter that appeared at the store and on its social media pages.

“With the numerous speeches of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stating his commitment to righting the wrongs of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency's slaughter of the thriving African American Fillmore District, we at Marcus Books believed the City would take some affirmative action on our behalf, since Marcus Books is the only surviving Black Business since the Redevelopment devastation,” the letter states, referring to the area's redevelopment that began in the late 1960s and resulted in the obliteration of the once-thriving community, the report states.

The Johnsons, along with their supporters, tried to fight the eviction, including submitting an application for historical landmark status and hosting a drive to raise money to repurchase the Victorian building where it has been housed since 1981, the report states. The first store opened in 1960 at another location.


But the fundraising drive fell short of $750,000 in February, the report says, although the Board of Supervisors designated the location as a city landmark.

The new property owners purchased the building through a bankruptcy auction for an estimated $2.6 million, beating out the $1.8 million the Johnsons offered, the owners say in the letter.


Read more at NBC Bay Area.

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