Born into an educated free black family in Portland, Maine, Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1859-1930) was a pioneering playwright, journalist, novelist, feminist, and public intellectual, best known for her 1900 novel Contending Forces: A Romance of Negro Life North and South. In this critical biography, Lois Brown documents for the first time Hopkins's early family life and her ancestral connections to eighteenth-century New England, the African slave trade, and twentieth-century race activism in the North.
Brown includes detailed descriptions of Hopkins's earliest known performances as a singer and actress; textual analysis of her major and minor literary works; information about her most influential mentors, colleagues, and professional affiliations; and details of her battles with Booker T. Washington, which ultimately led to her professional demise as a journalist.
Richly grounded in archival sources, Brown's work offers a definitive study that clarifies a number of inconsistencies in earlier writing about Hopkins. Brown re-creates the life of a remarkable woman in the context of her times, revealing Hopkins as the descendant of a family comprising many distinguished individuals, an active participant and supporter of the arts, a woman of stature among professional peers and clubwomen, and a gracious and outspoken crusader for African American rights.
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