Today we’re celebrating Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins! Hopkins was a prominent African-American novelist, journalist, playwright, historian, and editor. She is considered an early science fiction writer, and pioneer in her use of the romantic novel to explore social and racial themes.
From the Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society:
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, who was born in Portland, Maine, in 1859, is best known for four novels and numerous short stories which she published between 1900 and 1903. Her best-known work, the novel Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, was published in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1900 by the Colored Co-operative Publishing Company. Hopkins followed this first novel with three serialized novels – 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. All three serials along with several short stories by Hopkins appeared in the Colored American Magazine, a literary journal which became the Colored Co-operative Publishing Company’s primary project. During this time period, Hopkins worked as an editor at the magazine. Through her editorial work, fiction, and a substantial body of nonfiction that addressed black history, racial discrimination, economic justice, and women’s role in society among other topics, she emerged as one of the era’s preeminent public intellectuals.
With the release of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018), Afrofuturism is in the news. Like Sutton Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio (1899), W.E.B. Du Bois’s “The Comet” (1920), and George Schuyler’s Black No More (1931), Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood (1902, 1903) is an early work of speculative fiction, published almost a century before Mark Dery in 1993 identified Afrofuturism as “[s]peculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture.” Hopkins’s nonfiction essays in the Colored American Magazine also engage with the alternate histories (and, relatedly, possible futures) with which Afrofuturism often concerns itself. These histories are framed as more truthful than racially biased accounts in the mainstream history books and media in their acknowledgment of the significance of black civilization, innovation, and art in Africa and beyond.