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Pauline E. Hopkins

A Literary Biography

Hanna Wallinger

Publication Year: 2005

Virtually unknown for the better part of the twentieth century, Pauline E. Hopkins (1859-1930) is one of the most interesting rediscoveries of recent African American literary history. This is the first study devoted exclusively to Hopkins's life and her influential career as an editor, political writer, social critic, pioneering playwright, biographer, and fiction writer. Hanna Wallinger's discoveries break much new ground, especially regarding Hopkins's relationship with such notable men and women as Booker T. Washington and Anna Julia Cooper, her position in Boston's black women's club movement, her work with the Boston-based Colored American Magazine, and her concepts of race, gender, and class.

Drawing on recently discovered letters, Wallinger sheds new light on the relationship between Hopkins and Booker T. Washington, particularly the acrimony surrounding Hopkins's departure from the Colored American Magazine. She discusses Hopkins's pseudonymous writings in addition to those written under the known alias Sarah A. Allen. Wallinger interprets Hopkins's play Peculiar Sam, her now famous novels (Contending Forces, Hagar's Daughter, Winona, and Of One Blood), and the short stories, which have so far received little critical attention. This study also contains the little-known but important text A Primer of Facts. Republished here for the first time, it establishes Hopkins as an early advocate of black nationalism and one of the few women writers who joined this discourse.

Hopkins, writes Wallinger, 'was on the scene when race consciousness was being defined.' This important new study reveals her role at the center of crucial debates about the cultural politics of magazine editing, radical activism, and the early feminist movement.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. i-ii

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Any academic undertaking involves a cooperative effort. This book could not have been undertaken or brought to its conclusion without assistance from various quarters, financial and personal....

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pp. 1-16

On the first page of Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South (1900), the portrait of a beautiful and dignified Pauline Hopkins (1859–1930), one of the two pictures available to us, is inscribed “Yours for humanity.” The author looks the reader directly into the eyes; her mien is...

Restlessness of the Spirit (1859–1900)

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Background and Beginnings

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pp. 19-29

Sometime in the 1870s, a young colored girl was sitting in an audience listening to the great and powerful orator Frederick Douglass. Recollecting this experience years later, she wrote: “Child as I was, I felt that I could listen to the mellow richness of those sonorous accents forever. His bearing full of...

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Performances and Peculiar Sam

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pp. 30-46

While most studies of Hopkins so far have concentrated on her four novels, a few of the short stories, and the journalism, any indepth analysis of her development as a writer is incomplete without an interpretation of her play...

Negotiations in Race and Gender (1900–1905)

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The Colored American Magazine

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pp. 49-59

Her reputation as a performer and writer, a certain financial stability, and “grim determination”—as R. S. Elliott, a white man in charge of the technical management of the magazine in its early years, chose to call it (“The Story” 47)—allowed Pauline Hopkins to grasp one of the few opportunities available to...

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The Use of Pseudonyms

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pp. 60-69

Hopkins published her short story “The Mystery Within Us” in the first issue of the Colored American Magazine (May 1900). In the June issue it was announced that she would be in charge of the women’s column. The September issue...

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Booker T. Washington and Famous Men

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pp. 70-96

Hopkins’s journalistic essays at the Colored American Magazine shed light on her biography, although the references are often indirect. Her “Famous Men of the Negro Race” series, running from November 1900 to October 1901, is the best...

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The Black Woman’s Era

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pp. 97-110

T he black woman’s era was the age of a generation of famous race women. Between 1880 and 1920 African American intellectuals, educators, public lecturers, and artists of all branches found recognition in the club movement. Hundreds...

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The Voices of the Dark Races

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pp. 111-132

Hopkins tried to stay with the Colored American Magazine for a short time after its transfer to New York. Due to ill health, incipient arthritis, and disagreement with the new editorial policies, however, she returned to Boston after a few months. Whatever

Negotiations in Literature (1900–1905)

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The Values of Race Literature

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pp. 135-154

Pauline Hopkins opens the preface to her first novel, Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, by saying: “In giving this little romance expression in print, I am not actuated by a desire for notoriety...

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Contending Forces of the Slave Past

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pp. 155-169

The engraving of the whipping scene at the beginning of Contending Forces (1900) offers an excellent opening for a discussion of Pauline Hopkins’s fiction. In addition to the contrast between the female victim and the two male torturers, there is a subtle play of colors in this black-and-white engraving. The...

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Hagar’s Beautiful Daughters

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pp. 170-188

In the March 1903 issue of the Colored American Magazine, when Cornelia Condict criticized Pauline Hopkins for writing about interracial love rather than intraracial love, her reproach was basically aimed at the figure of the

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Winona, Manhood, and Heroism

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pp. 189-206

In Hopkins’s fiction, the female protagonists correspond to the image of the beautiful heroines under duress who either must be rescued or rescue themselves through memorable deeds. The roles available to her male figures also correspond...

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Of One Blood and the Future African American

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pp. 207-223

Of One Blood (1902–3) is the only one of the four novels by Pauline Hopkins that features a mixed-race male character who passes for white. It is the only novel by Hopkins and one of the few African American novels of the period that combine...

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Folk Characters and Dialect Writing

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pp. 224-239

I n all of Hopkins’s fiction, folk characters are an integral part of the world of her heroines and heroes. Hopkins clearly tries to reconcile her own and her characters’ aspirations to middle-class respectability with a need to demonstrate race...

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Short Stories in the Colored American Magazine

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pp. 240-262

I n the nine years of its existence, the Colored American Magazine published some fifty short stories, the majority of them by women. Thirty of them have been collected by Elizabeth Ammons in Short Fiction by Black Women, 1900–1920, a collection...

Voices and Silences (1905–1930)

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On the Platform with Prominent Speakers

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pp. 265-269

Hopkins’s prolific years were dominated by her journalism and her own writing. She was engaged in editorial work and the day-to-day business of publishing a magazine much of the time. Some of her time, however, was always...

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The New Era Magazine

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pp. 270-276

Hopkins made a brief comeback as editor of the Boston-based New Era Magazine in 1916, together with Walter Wallace, her former colleague at the Colored American Magazine. The magazine attempted to recreate and revitalize the goals...

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The Late Years

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pp. 277-290

In her study of Boston’s black upper class, Adelaide Hill Cromwell calls the period between 1830 and about 1910 or 1915 “the period of integration” (197). This time can be divided into a “stage of protest,” which began with the leadership of William Lloyd...

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pp. 291-314

Hopkins’s treatment of the topic in A Primer of Facts: Pertaining to the Early Greatness of the African Race and the Possibility of Restoration by Its Descendants— with Epilogue Compiled and Arranged from theWorks of the Best Known Ethnologists and Historians (1905) is not new, as...


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pp. 315-334


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pp. 335-356


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pp. 357-368

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343945
E-ISBN-10: 0820327042
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820327044
Print-ISBN-10: 0820327042

Page Count: 370
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hopkins, Pauline E. (Pauline Elizabeth).
  • Authors, American -- 19th century -- Biography.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • African American women -- Intellectual life.
  • Women and literature -- United States.
  • African American authors -- Biography
  • African Americans in literature.
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