The bookstore’s founders, Drs. Raye and Julian Richardson met at Tuskegee University which they both attended. In 1946 Julian started Success Printing Co. in the Fillmore District of San Francisco and in 1960, the two founded Marcus Books (named after political activist and author Marcus Garvey). Together — and through both the publishing press and bookstore — they fiercely advocated for Black history, exchange, and knowledge of self. They published now canonical books (that had before their resurrection gone out of print) and work by independent authors, poets, and artists. Marcus Books is an institution where those who have written books, produced visual work and more can see themselves on a shelf, wall or counter surrounded by other Black makers.
Alongside Marcus Books’ legacy of Black publishing is an investment in nourishing Black readership, no matter what age. Generations of families have grown up in the store: the student coming to find course material, our incarcerated brothers and sisters writing to put in book orders, the parents who bring their children to the store much like their parents did for/with them. World renowned author or prophetic local poet, elder or toddler, Marcus Books has provided something for you.
At Marcus Books “Black” is not a subject, a single month, or a niche; it is the universe. "Black” is not just history; it is the present and the future.
60 years since its opening, the bookstore 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.
Moved by her support for Black bookstores and love for Marcus Books, dedicated Marcus Books customer Folasade Adesanya (founder of The Black Syllabus) began a campaign to raise funds to support the store through its temporary closure due to COVID 19. This pandemic has only exacerbated the struggles that Black bookstores have faced. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of Black bookstores declined by 83%, from 325 to only 54. Folasade’s call to action was met by your incredible response. Black bookstores must be preserved.
With your extraordinary support, our original goal was met! Wow. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this fundraiser. Your immediate backing has been nothing short of inspiring and the Marcus Books family is deeply grateful for the love everyone has shown! Most grateful are the founders’ children, Blanche Richardson, Billy Richardson, and Karen Johnson, who own and run the store. This campaign is a testament to the power of collective effort, particularly during this challenging moment which impacts us all in drastic ways. We do not take it lightly that in a moment of global crisis, our community shows kindness. Whether you donated financially, shared the link among your social media circles, called the bookstore directly to put in a phone order, or sent your well wishes, our gratitude spills over.
Your support has enabled us to dream beyond the harsh reality of right now and reclaim a future where Marcus Books doesn’t just survive but thrives, evolves, and gives back.
Our intention with continuing this effort is in line with the bookstore’s history: to be in the position to continue to support our community. This, in good faith, requires dreaming beyond our contemporary moment -- a privilege made available through your display of generosity. Funds raised from this continued effort will go toward sustaining Marcus Books and the communities that support it in the following ways:
— Getting ahead of an unforgiving and strict loan toward a mortgage on the bookstore property. Ownership of the property (in an increasingly gentrified city) is essential.
— Building a robust online presence. We want to better engage our local and national communities through the sale of our essential catalogue of literature and merchandise. Making author readings, book clubs, and discussions available virtually is also crucial. We want to be available to our community, which means making the store’s programming available to you, wherever you are.
— Expanding our infrastructure, inventory, and staff to account for the evolution of the store.
As the Marcus Bookstore family knows well, Julian’s daily question at the end of a school or work day was: “What have you done for your people today?” On the 60th Anniversary of the bookstore and what would have been the 100th birthday of its co-founder Dr. Raye Richardson, we hope to continue to respond to that call through Marcus Books.
We thank you enormously for all that you have given toward this fundraising effort. We are both humbled and energized by your generosity. It is only based on that care that we are able to dream forward.
If you would like updates on this campaign and the future of Marcus Books, please click here.
With so much gratitude,
The Marcus Books Family
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