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Chapter 2 - Transitions in African American Book Publishing and Print Culture

from Part I - Transitions in African American Authorship, Publishing, and the Visual Arts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2021

Shirley Moody-Turner
Affiliation:
Pennsylvania State University
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Summary

The Colored Co-operative Publishing Company is known for launching the literary career of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins. Not only did it publish her first novel, Contending Forces (1900); it also published the Colored American Magazine, which Hopkins contributed to and edited. Few people know of the Colored Co-operative’s other publishing initiatives, however. This chapter explores the publication history of Ellen Wetherell’s In Free America; or, Tales from North and South (1901), the only other bound book published by the Colored Co-operative besides Contending Forces. Wetherell was a white woman from Lynn, Massachusetts. Before she rose to prominence in her local Socialist Party, she self-published an anti-lynching pamphlet and then expanded and published it as a book through the Colored Co-operative. I argue the publication of this book marks a critical moment of transition and fluidity in African American literary history, for it marks the moment when a Black publisher took deliberate, concrete steps to expand its sphere of influence beyond the Black community, and by empowering a local white author to find her national voice, the company claimed power for itself.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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