Marcus Books, Nation’s Oldest Black-Centric Bookstore, to Reopen In San Francisco

Marcus Books’ Fillmore Street store closed in 2014. Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle 2013
Marcus Books’ Fillmore Street store closed in 2014.
Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle 2013

Marcus Books, the oldest African American-themed bookstore in the country, is rising again.

Evicted from its longtime home in San Francisco’s Fillmore district in 2014, the store plans to reopen in the neighborhood next spring.

The new space, however, will be much smaller. Located in the lobby of the African American Art and Culture Complex, at 762 Fulton St., the shop will be large enough for just a few hundred titles, said Karen Johnson, Marcus Books’ co-owner.

“We had a tugboat, and now we have a rowboat,” Johnson said by phone. “We’ll be focusing on quality rather than quantity.”

Marcus Books’ old space, in a Queen Anne Victorian at 1712 Fillmore St., held roughly 5,000 titles. Opened in 1981, the store was designated as a historic landmark by the Board of Supervisors before being evicted after missing rent payments.

Named in honor of black nationalist Marcus Garvey, the original Marcus Books dates to 1960. Malcolm X frequented the shop, and visiting authors over the years included Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey.

Marcus Books also has an Oakland store, at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, that was established in 1976.

Although Marcus Books will sell fewer titles in its new space, Johnson said the Fillmore Street location could not accommodate large author events. At the African American Art and Culture Complex, the store will be able to use the complex’s theater.

“That’s the good part,” Johnson said. “Now it’s a little part of a larger unifying umbrella.”

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SOURCE: SFGate
John McMurtrie