A Brief History on How Pauline Hopkins Published 3 Novels in 3 Years

By Elizabeth Cali

From March 1901 – November 1903, African American woman writer Pauline Hopkins had three of her novels serialized in a major Black magazine, The Colored American Magazine.

What made this possible? When The Colored American Magazine entered circulation in May 1900, Hopkins was an early contributor and she had connections to the publishers from the magazine’s inception. By the second issue of the magazine’s publication, June 1900, Hopkins was announced editor of the women’s column. She was only woman on the magazine’s editorial board.

Hopkins also saw herself as an authority on literary fiction, while the magazine president rejected the value of fiction to the magazine at all. The magazine’s managing editor didn’t reject fiction outright, but was uncomfortable overseeing fiction acquisitions for the magazine. In response to an incalcitrant board, Hopkins asserted her vision that novels would establish a legacy of Black literary and cultural arts in the country.

The editorial board found Hopkins’s confidence in her vision irritating. They also viewed her interest in fiction, and area of the publication that they saw as marginal, as an opportunity maneuver her to the sidelines. By February of 1901 the board relinquished editorial control over fiction to Hopkins.

The result? Hopkins published Hagar’s Daughter, her first of three serialized novels, in the March 1901 issue, followed quickly by her novel Winona beginning in May 1902. And in November 1902, her third serialized novel, Of One Blood begins publication in the magazine, concluding in November 1903.