Pauline Hopkins

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Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins
Pauline Hopkins.jpg
Born 1859
Portland, Maine
Died August 13, 1930
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Occupation Novelist, journalist, playwright, historian, and editor
Nationality American
Genre Romance novel

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1859 – August 13, 1930) was a prominent African-American novelist, journalist, playwright, historian, and editor. She is considered a pioneer in her use of the romantic novel to explore social and racial themes. Her work reflects the influence of W. E. B. Du Bois.

Early life[edit]

Hopkins was born in Portland, Maine but grew up in Boston, Massachusetts to Benjamin Northup and Sarah Allen. Her father, Benjamin Northup, was very influential in Providence, Rhode Island due to his political ties and her mother, Sarah Allen, is a native of Exeter, New Hampshire. Even though Benjamin Northrup is noted as her biological father, she regards and refers to William Hopkins as her father, which is how her last name “Hopkins” was originated.[1]

The dynamics between Sarah Allen, Benjamin Northup and William Hopkins are quite interesting. Benjamin Northup and Williams Hopkins are very well-connected, with members of their extended families sharing close personal relationships with one another. However, before Hopkins entered the picture, Allen and Northrup were married for a short amount of time. Yet, after disputes of unfaithfulness in their bond, Allen went on to file paperwork for divorce. She was then approved by the court to move forward and leave behind previous marital stresses.

Not too long after, she met and became wedded to William Hopkins. Their relationship sparked a new representation of a middle class society for Boston African Americans.

Coming from a family who demonstrated high achievement, Hopkins' parents encouraged her in every aspect of her life.

In 1874, after completing her second year at Girls High School, Hopkins grew a strong appreciation for literary work. She decided to participate in an essay contest, which was held by the Congregational Publishing Society of Boston and funded by former slave novelist and dramatist, William Wells Brown. Her essay entitled, “Evils of Intemperance and Their Remedy,” focused on the troubling effects of intemperance. Throughout her work, she urged parents to take a stance and be in control of the social upbringing of their children’s lives. From there, she won first prize along with ten dollars in gold. She was then honored by the judges on behalf of her excellent writing skills.

But, before she was noted as a legendary journalist, she rose to fame by catching the public’s attention through her various roles as a dramatist, actress and singer. In March 1877, she participated in her first dramatic performance which was "Pauline Western, the Belle of Saratoga." She acted in several plays after this one, which all received great reviews. However, it was not until the beginning of the 1900s, she decided to focus more on her literary passions.

Literary career[edit]

Her first known work, a musical play called Slaves’ Escape; or, The Underground Railroad (later revised as Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad), first performed in 1880. Her short story "Talma Gordon", published in 1900, is often named as the first African-American mystery story. She explored the difficulties faced by African-Americans amid the racist violence of post-Civil War America in her first novel, Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, published in 1900. She published three serial novels between 1901 and 1903 in the African-American periodical Colored American Magazine: Hagar's Daughter: A Story of Southern Caste Prejudice, Winona: A Tale of Negro Life in the South and Southwest, and Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self. She sometimes used the pseudonym Sarah A. Allen. Pauline Hopkins was beginning to make a reputation for herself. As a result of this, she was offered the opportunity to become a member of the board of directors, a shareholder and a creditor of the Colored American Magazine. Along with her amazing writing, she helped to increase subscriptions and raise funding for the magazine. These roles alone helped her break into the literary world, with her work making up a substantial amount of the literary and historical materials promoted by the magazine.

After her involvement with the Colored American Magazine, Hopkins published four additional stories and serialized three novels, Hagar's Daughter: A Story of Caste Prejudiced, Winona: A Tale of Negro Life in the South and Southwest, and Of One Blood; or The Hidden Self, in the Colored American Magazine. Her work has been regarded amongst other notable African American writers at the time such as Charles Chesnutt, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Sutton Griggs by Richard Yarborough. In relation to women's publications, Yarborough calls her "the single most productive black woman writer at the turn of the century."[2]

Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self is the last of four novels written by Pauline Hopkins. She is considered by some to be the most prolific African-American woman writer and the most influential literary editor of the first decade of the 20th century, though she is lesser known than many literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self first appeared in serial form in The Colored American Magazine in the November and December 1902 and the January 1903 issues of the publication, during the four-year period in which Hopkins served as its editor. Elements of the work have been compared to Goethe's Faust.[3]

Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self tells the story of Reuel Briggs, a medical student who does not care about being black or appreciating African history but finds himself in Ethiopia on an archaeological trip. His motive is to raid the country of lost treasures, which he does find. However, he discovers much more than he expected: the painful truth about blood, race, and the half of his history that was never told. Hopkins wrote the novel intending, in her own words, to "raise the stigma of degradation from [the Black] race." The title, Of One Blood, refers to the biological kinship of all human beings.

In 1988, Oxford University Press released The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers with Professor Henry Louis Gates as the general editor of the series. Hopkins's novel Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South (with an introduction by Richard Yarborough) was reprinted as a part of this series. Hopkins's magazine novels (with an introduction by Hazel Carby) were also reprinted as a part of this series. Carby did this as a way to reintroduce Hopkins into the sphere and see how her literature influenced writers in the past, present and now future.

Legacy[edit]

Despite the climate of racism and other social injustices going on during this time, Hopkins made her voice, especially the black voice, known throughout history. She was fearful of the consequences of her actions, but also knew it was necessary for the world to know the struggles of being black in the United States in the 1900s. Other scholars, including Hopkins, have accredited her boldness in her writing on behalf of her parents and the example they set for her. "The Northup legacy that Pauline Hopkins would claim as her own was one of impressive public action, fearless civic ambition and strong community consciousness."[4]

Death[edit]

Hopkins spent the remainder of her years working as a stenographer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from burns sustained in a house fire.

Published works[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, Lois (2008). Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807831663.
  2. ^ Gruesser, John Cullen (1996). The Unruly Voice: Rediscovering Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252065545.
  3. ^ "‘Into the high ancestral spaces’: Pauline Hopkins` Of One Blood and Goethe's Faust", Sabine Isabell Engwer, Free University of Berlin, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies.
  4. ^ Brown, Lois (2008). Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807831663.

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Carol. Black Women Intellectuals: Strategies of Nation, Family, and Neighborhood in the Works of Pauline Hopkins, Jessie Fauset, and Marita Bonner. New York: Garland, 1998.
  • Brown, Lois. Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
  • Campbell, Jane. Mythic Black Fiction: The Transformation of History. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.
  • Sigrid Anderson Cordell, "'The Case Was Very Black against' Her: Pauline Hopkins and the Politics of Racial Ambiguity at the Colored American Magazine," American Periodicals, vol. 16, no. 1 (2006), pp. 52-73. In JSTOR
  • Carby, Hazel. Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Dworkin, Ira, ed. Daughter of the Revolution: The Major Nonfiction Works of Pauline E. Hopkins. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.
  • Gabler-Hover, Janet. Dreaming Black/Writing White: The Hagar Myth in American Cultural History. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2000.
  • Gruesser, John C. ed. The Unruly Voice: Rediscovering Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
  • Knight, Alisha R. Pauline Hopkins and the American Dream: An African American Writer’s (Re)Visionary Gospel of Success. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2012.
  • Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 6: Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide.
  • Shockley, Ann A. Afro-American Women Writers, 1746-1933: An Anthology and Critical Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1988.
  • Wallinger, Hanna. Pauline E. Hopkins: A Literary Biography. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005.

External links[edit]