Beacon Press

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Beacon Press
Beacon Press Logo.jpg
Parent companyUnitarian Universalist Association
Founded1854 (1854)
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationBoston
DistributionPenguin Random House Publisher Services (worldwide)
Publishers Group UK (UK)[1]
Key peopleGayatri Patnaik, director

Beacon Press is an American left-wing[2] non-profit book publisher. Founded in 1854 by the American Unitarian Association, it is currently a department of the Unitarian Universalist Association.[3] It is known for publishing authors such as James Baldwin, Mary Oliver, Martin Luther King Jr., and Viktor Frankl, as well as The Pentagon Papers.


The history of Beacon Press actually begins in 1825, the year the American Unitarian Association (AUA) was formed. This liberal religious movement had the enlightened notion to publish and distribute books and tracts that would spread the word of their beliefs not only about theology but also about society and justice.

The Early Years: 1854–1900

In the Press of the American Unitarian Association (as Beacon was called then) purchased and published works that were largely religious in nature and "conservative Unitarian" in viewpoint (far more progressive, nonetheless, than many other denominations). The authors were often Unitarian ministers—dead or alive, American or British, mostly Caucasian, and far more male than female. Many of the books were collections of sermons, lectures, and letters, balanced by volumes of devotion, hymns, and morally uplifting tales.

New Century, New Mission: 1900–1945

In the early 1900s Samuel Eliot broadened the mission of the press by publishing books dealing with ethical, sociological, philanthropic, and similar subjects, as well as those of a more strictly religious character. . . . Although books of marked theology and religious note continued to have a predominant place in Association publication, the wide interest in all subjects relating to social and moral betterment were included and the evergrowing topics of war and peace and arbitration, or national amity and racial brotherhood were represented

The Modern Era: 1945–

In 1949, Beacon published American Freedom and Catholic Power, an anti-Catholic book written by socialist and secular humanist Paul Blanshard, who was the assistant editor for The Nation.

Under director Gobin Stair (1962–75), new authors included James Baldwin, Kenneth Clark, André Gorz, Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas, Howard Zinn, Ben Bagdikian, Mary Daly, and Jean Baker Miller. Wendy Strothman became Beacon's director in 1983; she set up the organization's first advisory board, a group of scholars and publishing professionals who advised on book choices and direction. She turned a budget deficit into a surplus. In 1995, her last year at Beacon, Strothman summarized the Press's mission: "We at Beacon publish the books we choose because they share a moral vision and a sense that greater understanding can influence the course of events. They are books we believe in."[4] Strothman was replaced by Helene Atwan in 1995.

In 1971, it published the "Senator Gravel edition" of The Pentagon Papers for the first time in book form, when no other publisher was willing to risk publishing such controversial material. Robert West, then-president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, approved the decision to publish The Pentagon Papers, which West claims resulted in two-and-a-half years of harassment and intimidation by the Nixon administration.[5] In Gravel v. United States, the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution's "Speech or Debate Clause" protected Gravel and some acts of his aide, but not Beacon Press.

Beacon Press seeks to publish works that "affirm and promote" several principles:

the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; acceptance of one another; a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process in society; the goal of the world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; respect for the interdependent web of all existence; and the importance of literature and the arts in democratic life.

Beacon Press is a member of the Association of American University Presses.[6]

Books and authors[edit]

Beacon Press building, Beacon Hill, Boston, 2010

Beacon Press publishes non-fiction, fiction, and poetry titles. Some of Beacon's best-known titles are listed below.

Title(s) Author(s) Year(s)
American Freedom and Catholic Power[7] Paul Blanshard 1948, 1958[8]
SNCC: The New Abolitionists[9] Howard Zinn 1964
A Critique of Pure Tolerance[10] Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr, Herbert Marcuse 1965
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?[11] Martin Luther King Jr. 1967, 2010
The Transsexual Empire[12] Janice Raymond 1979
Notes of a Native Son[13] James Baldwin 1984
Toward a New Psychology of Women[14] Jean Baker Miller 1987
Gyn/Ecology[15] Mary Daly 1990
One-Dimensional Man[16] Herbert Marcuse 1964
Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun[17] Geoffrey Canada 1995
The Power of Their Ideas[18] Deborah Meier 1995
Race Matters[19] Cornel West 2001
New and Selected Poems: Volume One,[20] Thirst[21] Mary Oliver 2005, 2007
Resurrecting Empire[22] Rashid Khalidi 2005
Man's Search for Meaning[23] Viktor Frankl 2006
Without a Map[24] Meredith Hall 2007
All Souls: A Family Story from Southie[25] Michael Patrick MacDonald 2007
The Court and the Cross[26] Frederick Lane 2008
An African American and Latinx History of the United States Paul Ortiz 2018
White Fragility[27] Robin DiAngelo 2018
Superior: The Return of Race Science[28] Angela Saini 2019
Nice Racism Robin DiAngelo 2021

The King Legacy Series[edit]

In 2009, Beacon Press announced a new partnership with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. for a new publishing program, "The King Legacy."[29] As part of the program, Beacon is printing new editions of previously published King titles and compiling Dr. King's writings, sermons, orations, lectures, and prayers into entirely new editions, including new introductions by leading scholars.

Beacon Broadside[edit]

Beacon Press launched its blog, Beacon Broadside, in late September 2007.[30]


In 1992, Beacon won a New England Book Award for publishing.[31] In 1993, Beacon was voted "Trade Publisher of the Year" by the Literary Market Place.[32]

See also[edit]

  • Skinner House Books, another book publisher of the UUA, specializing in books for Unitarian Universalists


  1. ^ Publishers Group UK – Publishers
  2. ^ Bisbort, Alan (2008). Media Scandals. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-34766-5. Among left-wing publishers have been stalwarts like Beacon Press
  3. ^ "Beacon Press Celebrates 150 Years of Publishing". UU World: The Magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association. September–October 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  4. ^ Wilson, (2004), p. 209.
  5. ^ "UUA: The Pentagon Papers then and Now: Unitarian Universalists Confronting Government Secrecy". Archived from the original on 2009-09-04. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
  6. ^ "Association of American University Presses Membership Directory". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  7. ^ Blanshard, Paul (1948). American Freedom and Catholic Power. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Revised 2nd edition 1958.
  8. ^ Blanshard, Paul. American freedom and Catholic power. Boston: Beacon Press. Second Edition, January 1, 1958
  9. ^ Zinn, Howard (1964). SNCC : The New Abolitionists. Beacon Press. ISBN 9781608462995.
  10. ^ Wolff, Robert Paul; Barrington Moore Jr; Herbert Marcuse. A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston: Beacon Press. 1965. ISBN 978-0807015599
  11. ^ King Jr., Martin Luther. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. Beacon Press, Boston. 1967. ISBN 978-0-8070-0067-0
  12. ^ G., Raymond, Janice (1979). The transsexual empire : the making of the she-male. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0807021644. OCLC 4529467.
  13. ^ Baldwin, James (July 9, 1984). Notes of a Native Son. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-6431-3.
  14. ^ Miller, Jean Baker (1987). Toward a New Psychology of Women. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-080702909-1.
  15. ^ Daly, Mary (November 12, 1990). Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1413-4.
  16. ^ Marcuse, Herbert (October 1, 1964). One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1417-2.
  17. ^ Canada, Geoffrey (January 31, 1995). Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-0423-4.
  18. ^ Meier, Deborah (November 12, 1995). The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-3113-1.
  19. ^ West, Cornel (May 25, 2001). Race Matters. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-0972-7.
  20. ^ Oliver, Mary (November 15, 2005). New and Selected Poems: Volume One. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-6878-6.
  21. ^ Oliver, Mary (September 2, 2007). Thirst. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-6897-7.
  22. ^ Khalidi, Rashid (April 15, 2005). Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-0235-3.
  23. ^ Frankl, Viktor (June 14, 2006). Man's Search for Meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1429-5.
  24. ^ Hall, Meredith (April 11, 2007). Without a Map. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-7273-8.
  25. ^ MacDonald, Michael Patrick (October 4, 2007). All Souls: A Family Story from Southie. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-7213-4.
  26. ^ Lane, Frederick S. (June 1, 2008). The Court and the Cross. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. pp. 288 pages. ISBN 978-0-8070-4424-7.
  27. ^ DiAngelo, Robin. Contrib Michael Eric Dyson. White Fragility. Beacon Press, Boston, 2018. ISBN 9780807047422
  28. ^ Saini, Angela. Superior. Beacon Press, Boston, 2019. ISBN 9780807076910
  29. ^ "Beacon Press to reissue Martin Luther King Jr.'s books". UU World Blog. June 1, 2009.
  30. ^ Philocrites: Beacon Press launches 'Beacon Broadside' blog
  31. ^ "New England Book Awards". Archived from the original on 2007-07-24. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  32. ^ History and Mission

Further reading[edit]

  • Wilson, Susan. "Beacon's Modern Era: 1945–2003," Journal of Scholarly Publishing (2004) 35#4 pp. 200–209 online

External links[edit]