The Internationalist Bookstore was founded in 1981 by Bob Sheldon, a community activist. He described the store’s mission as follows:
We are dedicated to the position that we have no country: we do not support mindless patriotic pleas for ‘national unity,’ nor are we interested in keeping America number one. We support the unity and liberation of oppressed people worldwide and are working toward the day when all oppression and inequality will be removed from the earth.
Toward this end, Bob provided a space where people could come and learn about revolutionary and activist movements around the world, a center for discussing and analyzing politics and society. The store strove to provide an alternative to the information disseminated by the mainstream media and educational institutions. The shelves offered books and magazines providing a radical analysis of US and world politics, economic theory, environmental struggles, philosophy, history, and culture.
In early 1991, Bob Sheldon was one of the community’s most vocal activists against the Persian Gulf War. On February 21, within hours of the beginning of the ground war, Bob Sheldon was shot and killed as he closed his store for the evening. The murderer has never been apprehended. Many believe that his killing was politically motivated.
He left behind many friends in the community. The memorial service for Bob at the store filled the grounds, despite freezing weather. A second memorial service at the Community Church filled the building beyond the capacity of its main worship hall. At both events, people began organizing to reopen the store, to continue Bob’s work. A few months later, the store opened as a collective: besides the two paid managers, all workers were volunteers.
In 1995, for a variety of reasons, the store decided to move to a downtown Franklin Street location. Volunteers, board members, and friends of the store turned out en masse to help with the move.