In 1960, in the thriving Black business district known as the Fillmore, Julian and Raye Richardson were co-owners of The Success Printing Co. and avid readers. When friends didn’t return their books, they realized the need for a Black bookstore. It was named Success Book Store. After reading Marcus Garvey’s Philosophy and Opinions, they decided to change the names of their 30 year-old printshop and ten year-old bookstore to Marcus Books Printing and Marcus Bookstores, opening another store in Oakland, California.
As Black people learned more about the legacy of consciousness, strength and creativity inherent in their history, many civic groups were sparked and nurtured. Black people and other progressives could feel at home and were “understood” at Marcus Books. They didn’t have to apologize for their difference, their pain from racism, or translate their philosophy or concerns into a second language. For example, a small group of Black parents, frustrated with the school district’s mis-education of their children, sought advice from Rich (Julian) and Raye. In the large meeting room of the stores’ Civic Center location, the Malcolm X School was established. At another time, the Richardsons put up their family home as collateral to pay bail for over one hundred students arrested for their participation in the strike at San Francisco State University. They printed the student newspaper, The Organ, for free after SFSU refused to continue publishing the paper during the strike. They printed many pamphlets, posters, flyers and newsletters for free, if they believed the individual events would have a beneficial effect upon Black people. Their community contributions were so vast, that we will have to devote ongoing chapters to describe their service.
Within the fifty years of supplying Black literature, Marcus Books has hosted many fledgling authors as well as most best selling Black authors in America. Actually, more Black writers have been to Marcus Bookstores than those published during the entire Harlem Renaissance. Some of the patrons, writers and speakers include:
James Baldwin, Huey Newton, Nancy Wilson, Ousmane Sembene, Earth Wind & Fire, Les Nubians, The Last Poets, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Dorothy Height, Haki Madhubuti, Bernice McFadden, Jesse Jackson, Hugh Masekela, Delroy Lindo, Elaine Brown, Dave Chappelle, Ernest Gaines, Ntosake Shange, Maya Angelou, Mary Monroe, Walter Mosley, Alvin Poussaint, B.B. King, Amiri Baraka, Ice T, Sugar Ray Leonard, Nalo Hopkinson, Gayl Jones, Wesley Snipes, Barry White, Della Reese, Stokeley Carmichael, Angela Davis, Pam Grier, James McBride, Queen Latifah, Toni Morrison, Danny Glover, Randal Keenan, Robert Allen, Nathaniel Mackey, Evelyn Williams, Eldridge Cleaver, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Barbara Lee, Jackie Robinson, Willie Brown, George Moscone, Paule Marshall, Ron Dellums, Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, David Bowie, Tavis Smiley, Oba T’Shaka, Oprah Winfrey, Claude Brown, John Edgar Wideman, Al Young, Ivan Van Sertima, Wanda Coleman, Nikki Giovanni, Wade Nobles, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Alice Walker, Cecil Taylor, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Heath, Charles Finch, Hunter Adams, III, Bebe Moore Campbell, Stanley Crouch, Bertrice Berry, Rosa Parks, Terry McMillan, Marita Golden, James Allen McPherson, Paul Mooney, Luisah Teish, Eric Jerome Dickey, Belva Davis, Morgan Freeman, Erica Huggins, Michelle Cliff, Runoko Rashidi, Hazaiah Williams, Marcus Miller, Randy Weston, Nathan McCall, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, John Handy, Zane, Ray Taliaferro, Femy Kuti, En Vogue, Geoffrey Canada, Asa Hilliard, III, bell hooks, Frances Bebey, Edward P. Jones, Mike Norris, Emory Douglass, August Wilson, James Van Der Zee, Opal Palmer Adisa, Stephen Carter, Russell Simmons, Bobby Seale, Maulana Karenga, J. California Cooper, Sister Souljah, Tina McElroy Ansa, Iyanla Vanzant, Trisha Thomas, Norman Bass, Omar Tyree, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Michael Baisden, Toni Cade Bambara, Tananarive Due, Jamaica Kincaid, Manning Marable, devorah major, Ismael Reed, Quincy Troupe, Derrick Bell, Connie Briscoe, Ed Bullins, Octavia Butler, Pearl Cleage, Debrena Jackson Gandy, Dick Gregory, E. Lynn Harris, Richard King and Carman McRae . . . (No disrespect if your name, or the name of someone you know isn’t listed but should be. Just call, write or email us.)