Hopkins, Pauline (1859 - 1930)

Genre: General Fiction, Non-Fiction

Pauline Hopkins -- playwright, journalist, essayist, novelist and poet, publisher, lecturer, historian, actress, musician; and stenographer for the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics -- is known as the "Dean of African-American Women Writers."

She was born in Portland, Maine, but moved to Boston as an infant and attended public schools there. After winning a literary competition at the age of 15, she went on to become a prolific writer.

Her first play, "Slaves' Escape: or the Underground Railroad," was produced in Boston in 1880. Her work often featured mixed-race characters and their struggles. Her 1900 novel, Contending Forces, follows the fortunes of a racially mixed family from 1790 Bermuda to late 19th-century Boston, and emphasizes feminist themes of female bonding and empowerment. She also wrote a four-part magazine series on the global African community, "The Dark Races of the Twentieth Century," published in The Voice of the Negro.

Hopkins also founded and was literary editor of the first significant African-American journal of the 20th century, the Boston-based Colored American magazine. She wrote numerous magazine essays and articles (sometimes using the pseudonym Sarah A. Allen), and she became a frequent lecturer on black history.

Selected Bibliography

  • Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South (1900)
  • Hagar's Daughters: A Story of Southern Class Prejudice (1902)
  • Of One Blood, or, The Hidden Self (1903)
  • A Primer of Facts Pertaining to the Greatness of the African Race and the Possibility of Restoration By Its Descendants (1905)

Selected Resources

  • The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins (1988, Oxford Univ. Press)

Selected Links