Exhibit written and curated by Josephine Sloman


The Colored Cooperative Publishing Company (1900-1904) was an African-American-owned publishing company based in Boston, Massachusetts.  The company played an integral role in the growth of an increasingly intellectual and politically active black readership during the Twentieth Century [7].



The Colored Cooperative Publishing Company was founded in May of 1900 by Walter William, Harper Fortune, Jessie Watkins, and either Peter Gibson or Walter Alexander Johnson [6 and 7 respectivly, sources differ].  All of the founders came from Virginia to Boston, a place that was (and is) known for its educational, medical, scientific, and cultural communities [7, 2].  Its headquarters were located at 232 West Canton Street, Boston, Massachusetts [4].  The founders wanted to provide a space for and produce politically, racially, and mentally charged material.  The company's initial focus was on producing a monthly periodical, but it rapidly expanded its interest to books as well [7].   

While the reasoning behind the name "Colored Cooperative Publishing Company" can obviously be attributed to the fact that the publishing company was owned by African Americans (Colored), because it operated as a co-operative company (Cooperative), and because it produced written work (Publishing) [7].  However, one author also argued that another meaning of the word "cooperative" could be the fact that the company flourished by partnering with blacks and whites to produce its material as well as by appealing to both white and black readership [7].  An important white contributor to the publishing company is Reuben S. Elliot, who played an integral role in helping the company move to book publishing [7].  Elliot also penned an extensive history of The Colored American Magazine, which is considered to be the Colored Cooperative Publishing Company's most successful publication [7].  One author also cited a letter from a white subscriber to the magazine who questioned its portrayal of interracial marriage, which spurred a dialogue between her and the editor [5].  In other words, the company's publication provided a forum for discussions on race for its mixed readership. 

The Colored Cooperative Publishing Company's first issue of The Colored American Magazine came out in May 1900 and was widely distributed to black communities throughout the United States [6].  The editor for the magazine was Pauline Hopkins, a black female intellectual whose work was also published throughout the magazine.  Her books 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 were all published serially in the magazine [1].  The first and only book that the company published was also by Hopkins: Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life, North and South.  It was also widely read.  In 1902, the company released a publisher's announcement saying that both the magazine and the book were doing extremely well and that the company planned on expanding [7].

In 1902, the company released a publisher's announcement saying that both the magazine and the book were doing extremely well and that the company planned on expanding [7].  The plan for expansion, however, never came to fruition. By the middle of 1903, Fred Moore had bought The Colored American Magazine and relocated it to New York City, where it continued to be published until 1909 [6]. Fred Moore was the agent of Booker T. Washington, who had ideological differences with Pauline Hopkins.  Some articles surmise that those ideological differences were the motivation behind Washington and his agent taking over and move the magazine [7].  Shortly thereafter, The Colored Cooperative Publishing Company disbanded due to financial difficulties; this, too, has been connected to one of Washington's benefactors, John Freund [7].






Pauline Hopkins (1859-1930)

Portrait of Hopkins [1].

Hopkins was an important figure for the Colored Cooperative Publishing Company as the editor of The Colored American Magazine from 1900-1903. The company also published four of her books (one in book format and three within the magazine) [6].  As one of the prominent intellectuals in Twentieth Century black culture, a lot of her politically and racially charged ideas clashed with the ideas of other black intellectuals like Booker T. Washington [1].




The Colored American Magazine (1900-1909)

Image of magazine cover [3].

A notable magazine that the company produced was The Colored American Magazine, which was considered one of the best periodicals regarding Afro-American culture during the Twentieth Century [6]. Initially edited by Pauline Hopkins (from 1900-1903), the magazine's mission was to "be devoted to the higher culture of Religion, Literature, Science, Music, and Art of the Negro" [6]. In 1903, the magazine was purchased by Fred Moore and relocated to New York City [7].






Mission Example

'A Home Scene' [7].


This image was published in the Colored American Magazine as part of a photo spread titled "Photography for Our Young People" [7].  It depicts a mother and daughter sitting and reading the magazine, which encapsulates the Colored Cooperative Publishing Company's mission: to enlighten and inspire their black readership.


Works Cited

[1] "Biography." The Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society. N.p., 15 Dec. 2014. 

[2] Cannon, Katie G. “Jots and Tittles: Dotting Every i, Crossing Every t.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, vol. 16, no. 1, 2000, pp. 97–101.

[3]Cover Image.” The Colored American Magazine: Iss. February 1901. Boston: Colored Cooperative Publishing Company, 1901.

[4] Hayden, Robert C. "The African-American Business Tradition in Boston," Trotter Review: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 3. 1994.

[5] Ihara, Rachel.“‘Between Scylla and Charybadis’: Pauline Hopkins, Winnifred Eaton, and the Racial Politics of Serial Publication.” Novels on the

     Installment Plan: American Authorship in the Age of Serial Publication, from Stowe to Hemingway. City University of New York, 2007. 111-

     152. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. 

 [6] Joyce, Donald F. "The Colored Cooperative Publishing Company." Black Book Publishers in the United States: A Historical Dictionary of the

     Presses, 1817-1990. N.p.: Greenwood Group, 1991. 80-83. 

 [7] Kelly, Gary, Joad Raymond, and Christine Bold. "The Colored Cooperative Publishing Company." The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture.

     Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 447-53.