Dr. Raye Gilbert Richardson, 99, Founder of Marcus Books, Oldest Remaining Black-Owned Bookstore in America

Dr. Raye Gilbert Richardson. Courtesy of the Marcus Books website.

Dr. Raye Gilbert Richardson was born in Brinkley Arkansas in 1920 and raised in Waukegan Ill., by her father William Gilbert. Raye was 99 years of age when she passed away on Feb. 11, 2020, in Oakland, California.

Dr. Richardson attended Tuskegee Institute as a young teenager where she met her future husband, Dr. Julian Richardson who passed in 2000. They were married for 60 years and came to San Francisco in 1946 where Julian started Success Printing Co. in the Fillmore District. In 1960, Raye and Julian founded what is now the oldest Black bookstore in the nation – Marcus Books. Their library now consists of over 20,000 titles.

Drs. Raye and Julian had four children, Julian, Jr. (Mac) who passed in 1999, Blanche, Karen and Billy. Raye is also survived by nine grandchildren and nine great grandchilden. Dr. Raye earned a PhD from U.C. Berkeley and held an Honorary Doctorate from the Center for Urban Black Studies at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union.

She served as the chair of the Black Studies Department at San Francisco State University for decades. During her tenure she taught literature, critical thinking and humanities classes. She is the first professor emerita to be retired from the SFSU’s Black Studies Department.

Raye was appointed to various positions/commissions by four San Francisco mayors and two California govenors, including the San Francisco Library Commission and the California State Board of Medical Quality Assurance.
She was a columnist for the Sun Reporter newspaper and a regular commentator on the popular Ray Taliaferro radio show.
During her years of activism and leadership, Dr. Raye received hundreds of awards from community groups, political institutions and the media.

Known for her brilliant intelligence, her profound and eclectic knowledge, her critical thinking, her humor and wit, her untiring activism, her compassion and love of Black people, Dr. Raye impacted the lives of all who were fortunate enough to share in her life.
A public memorial is planned and the date is TBA. Raye’s wishes were that her legacy of Marcus Books be supported in lieu of flowers.


  1. Thank you for news of the Dr. Richardson’s passing. I was blessed to have spent time with her when she came to Paris with a Bay Area group…including several family members, a few years back. My parents took us to Marcus bookstore on Fell St when I was growing up in East Palo Alto. Going there to stock up on books as an adult Dr. Julian Richardson always offered lessons in Black History that stay with me to this day. Rest in perfect peace Queen Mother, educator, activist! I will miss your beautiful smile.

  2. Thank The Most High for the Richardson family. Thank you for Marcus Books.
    Got more than a few books from there, that has helped ‘me’ avoid a whole lot of nonsense.
    Thank you Karen, for introducing ‘me’ to Dr. Blynd’s Funktionary.

    Condolences, and Peace to the whole family


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