By Chris Maina
The country’s oldest Black bookstore, Marcus Books, has been evicted. It has been central to the intellectual and cultural life of the Black community in San Francisco.
It began as a bookstore, print shop and an organizing center on McAllister Street back in 1960. It was named after Marcus Garvey, an icon to the Pan-African Movement. The store was instrumental in teaching many about Black history and culture.
“The current property owner has changed the locks to the door of 1712 Fillmore St.,” Karen and Greg Johnson, the store’s co-owners, said in a statement. This was done on Tuesday after the store’s monthly rent payments were backed up.
This is a big blow to the dwindling Black community in San Francisco, as many blacks have left the city recently. Many African-Americans have stated that San Francisco is not welcoming to blacks.
There have been numerous speeches by Mayor Ed Lee saying that he is committed to correcting the wrongs done by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency that brought down thriving businesses that were owned by African-Americans in the Fillmore District.
Marcus Books thought that the city authorities would come to their rescue and take affirmative action on their behalf. Marcus Books was the only thriving business left since the redevelopment devastation where the once-thriving community was virtually destroyed. This happened at the end of the 1960s into the early 1970s.
There has been considerable effort by the store’s supporters and the Johnson family to keep America’s oldest Black bookstore up and running. For years, the store has fought numerous attempts at eviction. The owners applied for a historic landmark status and also held a fundraiser to buy back the Victorian building where it is located. The building, where it stands, was given a landmark status, but the fundraiser fell short of $750,000.