Nation's Largest Black Bookstore Faces Foreclosure

The problem, surprisingly, isn't Amazon.com

By Jodi Hernandez
|  Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010  |  Updated 11:15 AM PDT
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Nation's Largest Black Bookstore Faces Foreclosure

The shelves of Marcus Books in Oakland.

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Marcus Books, the nation's oldest African American bookstore, could be in its final chapter.

The Bay Area landmark, based in Oakland, has provided a wealth of resources on African American history and culture since 1960. But it's now in deep financial trouble, its future in jeopardy.

The store's manager says a Ponzi scheme and a subprime loan have landed the family-run business in foreclosure.

"I believe if there was not a Marcus Books you would not be able to find these resources anywhere else," said Blanche Richardson, the bookstore's manager. "Not in the libraries, certainly not in the schools."

Richardson's parents Raye and Julian Richardson founded the store in San Francisco's Western Addition 50 years ago. They later opened a second location in Oakland. "At that time it was very difficult to acquire books by and about black people," said Richardson. "They felt there was a great need to have that resource in the community and that's how Marcus Books began."

The store has helped launch many careers and has been visited by the nation's most celebrated writers including Maya Angelou and Bill Cosby.

"We're very proud of that," Richardson said. "Proud that we were able to support them and connect them with the community."

But now, the store needs help. Richardson and her family need to raise tens of thousands of dollars to keep the store afloat.

Richardson says she's determined to keep her parents dream alive. She doesn't have to look far to find proof it can be done. The books on the store shelves contain lessons anything can be overcome.

"It's not like we're the first ones that have ever been in trouble and this trouble's nothing compared with being stripped from your homeland, separated from your family your children your language your culture and to still survive. I think we can handle this just fine," she said.

Richardson is encouraging supporters to buy books. Donations can also be made to the store's legal defense fund.

Marcus Books
c/o Sandra F. Banks, Esq.
3941 Lincoln Avenue
Oakland, CA 94602
 

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