The hustle and bustle happening at Marshall’s Music and Bookstore is a wondrous sight. Endless customers, deliveries and phones ringing nonstop keep owner Maati Primm on her toes. And she handles all of it herself.
Marshall’s is one of the oldest Black-owned bookstores in the country, and with the exception of the original founder, Greater Pearlie Grove Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Louis Wilcher, the business has been owned and operated on Farish Street in Jackson by Primm’s female family members since 1938. Until the early 1970s, Farish Street was the epicenter of Black businesses in Jackson.
“When I was a little girl, I’d come in here and play bookstore,” Primm says with a smile at the memory. “This was my Disney.”
The bookstore offers a variety of books and music promoting Black history and excellence. It is a sanctuary for those who want to learn history and continue to learn.
“And maybe find out what they didn’t know, what they weren’t taught in school,” Primm said. “It can be an eye-opening, mind-blowing experience.”
An entire wall in the store is dedicated to notable Mississippians who have reached various levels of fame via books they’ve authored, television shows they’ve hosted, activism they’ve led or movies they’ve starred in.
Primm even plays videos of historical events for customers, sharing snippets of history from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to Little Richard schooling Arsenio Hall’s audience on their rights as living, breathing human beings.
“My great grandmother was enslaved. When she freed herself, she started a church, school and burial grounds. She was an educator too. To this day, the church and burial grounds still remain,” Primm said, while showing an image taken in 1908 of her grandmother with classmates at Utica Technical Institute.
“Her two daughters, and now I, run this business. We’ve seen some of everything happen economically, socially and racially here and around the world. And Marshall’s is right here, still. That’s commitment,” Primm adds.
“My family has been committed to serving. I’m only three generations born out of enslavement and look at what that commitment has become. I love serving our community, and that’s what Marshall’s Music and Bookstore is … a continuation of the commitment that we have to community.”
Correction 8/26/22: This story has been updated to reflect how many years the store has been open.