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Ms. Una Mulzac

Born on 4-19-1923. She was born in Baltimore, MD. She was accomplished in the area of Education. She later died on 1-21-2012.
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Una Mulzac was born on April 19, 1923 in Baltimore and moved to the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY as a little girl. She graduated from Girls High School, where she ran track, and got a secretarial job at Random House, where she became interested in publishing. She moved to Guyana, then known as British Guiana, around 1962 to start a bookstore and to work for the party of Cheddi Jagan, a revolutionary Marxist. While in Guyana, she escaped death when a package arrived at the bookstore in Guyana. A colleague opened it and was killed, she suffered wounds to an eye and her chest. She came back to the US and then returned to Guyana.

Discouraged by the conservative government that came to power after Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966, she returned to Harlem, deciding to pursue revolution by other means. She opened her bookstore in 1967. Ms. Mulzac's profession was selling books at Liberation Bookstore, a Harlem landmark that for four decades specialized in materials promoting black identity and black power. On one side of the front door, a sign declared, "If you don't know, learn. On the other: If you know, teach." Soon books were piled atop revolutionary pamphlets amid posters of black political heroes.

Her bookstore, born at a time when Harlem was ravaged by crime and heroin, became a neighborhood landmark like the Apollo or Sylvia's Restaurant and endured into the era of Starbucks and Old Navy. People came from all over Harlem and beyond to buy books there, whether by well-known authors like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison or by little-known conspiracy theorists.

The store harked back to an earlier generation of politicized Harlem bookstores, particularly Lewis H. Michaux's African National Memorial Bookstore, a mainstay on West 125th Street for 42 years, until 1974. Mr. Michaux proudly advertised it as the House of Common Sense and the Home of Proper Propaganda. Anyone interested in race has to come here, he said in 1961. (Lewis' brother, Oscar, is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker.)

Apart from the outdoor book vendors on 125th Street, Ms. Mulzac's store became the literary destination in Harlem for a later generation of people "interested in race." Shariff Simmons, a musician and poet, once called it U.C.L.A., for University on the Corner of Lenox Avenue. (Lenox Avenue is also known as Malcolm X Boulevard.) As both Ms. Mulzac's health and the condition of her store deteriorated, she worked less and less, and the store ground to a halt around 2007. Her family donated its complete stock to Hue-Man, now Harlem's principal bookstore, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

Both bookstores and others like it have been living rebuttals of false preconceptions about Harlem. "No one else thought a community like ours needs a bookstore," said Marva Allen, Hue-Man's chief executive. "The unfortunate thing is that we just keep coming one by one, instead of expanding."

In an interview for a 2011 book, 'Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America," by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Ms. Mulzac said friends had tried to discourage her from name it "Liberation," warning that it would invite trouble. They suggested just "Bookstore."

Ms. Mulzac, who never married and left no immediate survivors, saw herself as an educator. She was secretary of a group formed to demand better education for blacks. She ran an advertisement in Black News asking, "Have you ever read 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' for the second time?" Her cousin Leticia said she was so feisty, she was evicted from two nursing homes. Letiia recalled her railing against keep-off-the grass signs while strolling in Central Park and blaming Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, barking, "That Giuliana's a fascist!"

Ms. Mulzac did have a sweeter side. The Los Angeles Times once told of an episode in which an 18-year-old wandered into her store and wanted to know if he looked like Malcolm X, as his uncle had suggested. "He was thrilled when I told him he did," she said with a smile.

The store, at West 131st Street, was Ms. Mulzac's weapon in a lifetime of struggle "always leftist and often cantankerous" that ended on Jan. 21 at a hospital in Queens. Her second cousin Henry Mulzac said she had died there of natural causes. She was 88. This bio was revised by Peggy Brooks-Bertram from an obituary notice in the New York Times, printed February 4, 2012.