Missing from the ample collection of the Aframerican Bookstore in North Omaha is the book its late owner Marshall Taylor had hoped to write about his own life.
A week before he died on Tuesday, the ill 83-year-old told his wife, Annlattea “Annette” Green-Taylor, that he hadn’t gotten to that long-wanted project.
“He brought it up: ‘I never got to write my book,’ ” his wife said.
Annlattea responded, “That’s OK, baby. Your story will always be told.”
People can learn more of Taylor’s life story at a celebration of life service Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation at 3448 Evans St.
The service will be outdoors, and attendees are asked to observe COVID-19 precautions by social distancing and wearing masks.
Marshall Taylor’s store at 3226 Lake St. opened originally as one of two hair and beauty supply shops he and a business partner ran. The other shop was in Bellevue.
Taylor, who was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, in 1937, came to Nebraska by way of the Air Force. Raised during the Jim Crow era in south Georgia, a place where he saw no future for himself, he seized a ticket out through military service.
The Air Force showed him the world, and during his service, he received a college education, earning a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma.
His last assignment was at Offutt Air Force Base.
Taylor retired in 1975 as senior master sergeant.
He started Lilmar Beauty service, and the North Omaha location had a little bookstore in the front. It later got its own name: Aframerican Bookstore.
Annlattea worked there as a nail technician and helped Taylor with the books. She remembered every title.
They fell for each other and grew the book business, turning the old salon into a classroom where Taylor would teach history — the kind he said was left out of history books.
“My husband always has been into books, into knowledge,” Annlattea said. “You could tell because he was a walking encyclopedia. He always was a reader.”
But the Aframerican Bookstore has offered more than books. One could buy T-shirts, posters, art, shea butter lotion and a cologne named for the first black president, Barack Obama.
The one-story brick building has long served as a community hub for meetings and unofficial social work, healing and therapy. Annlattea chalked that up to an atmosphere alive with the spirit of “ancestors.”
Taylor mentored young people and once pressed cash into the hand of a surprised friend who visited the store.
“He looked at my husband and started crying and said, ‘Brother, how did you know I was in need?’ ” Annlattea recalled. “My husband would help anyone.”
Taylor did not shy away from difficult subjects and was passionate about African and African American history, the legacy of racism and unjust systems. But his approach was to educate. In his shop, a seeker could find in him a patient and hospitable host who drew a line on one subject — himself.
He was private and wanted to keep the lens on the larger issues of the day when news reporters came calling. But he had dreamed about writing his own story in his own way.
Taylor’s life story would include the fact that he was a father of three children who also embraced his wife’s four children.
Together for 30 years — married for the last 20 — they shared in the joy of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His life story would also include a final chapter on the tumult of his last year. The coronavirus pandemic caused the Taylors to temporarily close the Aframerican Bookstore in March. It has not reopened.
“‘We’re going through some hell of a time,’ ” Taylor had told his wife. “Baby, just be safe.”
Annlattea said she had so much Lysol, Clorox and hand sanitizer in her car, it needed its own seat.
But the bookstore has recently benefited from the racial awakening happening nationally through the Black Lives Matter movement.
It was placed on a black-owned businesses list, which has prompted an increase in online orders. Annlattea said she plans to keep the business going online for now but will reopen the physical building when she feels that it’s safe.
Annlattea said her husband suffered from an illness but not the coronavirus. She said before he died, he asked for one more book: the Bible. He pointed to Genesis and told Annlattea that she was the Eve to his Adam. That they fit together.
“That man loved (me) from the depth of his soul,” she said. “And I loved him more. When it’s all said and done, I will tell his story.”
Marshall Taylor was preceded in death by his parents, Lizzie and John Taylor.
He is survived by six siblings, all in Georgia, and his children: Lisa Taylor Jones of Bellevue; Marsha Lynn Taylor of Atlanta; Geary Taylor of St. Petersburg, Florida; and Jamie Green, Michelle Green, Clarence Green and Kameron Green, all of Omaha.
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