Blog of’s Founder & Webmaster Celebrating our Literary Legacy #readingblack


Help Keep the Country’s Oldest Black-owned Bookstore Open

Editor’s Note (posted May 8th 2014): Marcus Books of San Francisco Evicted

Sign the petition to help save the store

Marcus Books, the Fillmore District institution that’s been in the same Victorian at 1712 Fillmore St. since 1960, must move out by June 18, following an April bankruptcy sale that saw the storied building sold for a fraction of what it is likely worth.  The San Francisco Examiner, June 09, 2013

The following video, published online by the Wall Street Journal on February 11, 2010, beautifully illustrates the importance of Marcus Books.

Marcus BookstoreThe petition was initiated by Jasmine Johnson of San Francisco, CA.   The petition is an attempt to help convince the current owners to sell the building, containing the bookstore, at a small profit to Westside Community Services who will ensure Marcus Bookstore remains open:

“Westside Community Services, an established agency in the Western Addition that has partnered with Marcus Books to provide services for many years, has offered to repurchase the property from the Sweis family in order to keep the bookstore at its current site. “We’ve made a very good offer, in excess of the purchase price,” said Dr. Mary Ann Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Westside. “We hope that the Sweises will accept it and that they understand what an incommensurable loss it would be if Marcus Books was forced out.”

Marcus Books has hosted thousands of authors including Oprah Winfrey, Patti Labelle, James Baldwin, B.B. King, Rosa Parks, Toni Morrison, and Malcolm X. Prior to Marcus Books, the storefront was Jimbo’s Bop City, a jazz club that hosted musical greats and is largely responsible for Fillmore Street being named the “Harlem of the West.”

We are asking the Sweis family to preserve this legacy by selling the property to Westside Community Services.” Click here to sign the petition.

I’ve been tracking Independent Black owned stores for some time.  Unfortunately, across the country, this story is too often repeated. The reasons are as varied as the stores themselves.  Regardless of the reasons for the closures, the importance of independent bookstores, focused on Black books, remains the same.  The reasons are best articulated by Marcus Bookstore co-owner Blanche Richardson, during a 2008 interview with Bookslut:

“To provide a resource for the community for books by and about Black people everywhere.  It is essential that all cultures have a place where they can access information about themselves — their history, their culture, their unique issues, their political and social standing in the greater society, and a place where children have access to books that show them in a positive light.”

Most of you reading this message don’t live anywhere near the Marcus Bookstore in San Francisco and may never visit it, but the battle to save this store, and other like it, is our and ours alone.

Even if the battle to save the San Francisco Marcus Bookstore is lost, by raising awareness of this battle, more people will be made aware of the larger war against all of our cultural institutions and become motivated to do something to help a local institution not just survive, but thrive.

Marcus Books 1712 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA
Marcus Books 1712 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

Marcus Books 2nd location (not under threat of closure)

3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way Oakland, CA 94609
3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way Oakland, CA 94609

Learn more about Marcus Books and other Black owned independent bookstores across the country at Huria Search.

December 5th 2013 Update on Marcus Books

Marcus Books, one of the country’s oldest African American-run bookstores, may be able to stay indefinitely in its San Francisco location under a deal the owners have reached with the couple who purchased the bookstore property earlier this year.

The agreement gives the owners of Marcus Books until the end of February to raise $2.6 million to buy the Fillmore Street property back from the current owners. The San Francisco Community Land Trust would purchase the building with the understanding that Marcus Books would remain open there.  Read the full story at SFGate.

July 27th 2013 Update on Marcus Books

The effort is still going hard to keep this black-owned community bookstore open. Those that have been to youth events, readings and cultural events are coming together for Marcus Books. There will be a rally on Tuesday, July 30th for the community to make their voice heard for Marcus Books! Marcus Books is grappling with speculators (the Sweis’s) to buy their building back. Speakers will be challenging the city council for a resolution. The hearing follows at 2pm with the Board of Supervisors, open to the public. Tell a friend to come through to support San Francisco’s historic bookstore in the Fillmore!! Please connect with other about the event and share with these links.

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Troy D. Johnson is the President, founder and webmaster of, LLC (The African American Literature Book Club). Launched in March of 1998, has grown to become the largest and most frequently visited website dedicated to books and films by and about people of African descent.