Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


English; History

First Advisor

Sherita L. Johnson, Ph.D.

Advisor Department



Rediscovered through archival recovery in the late 1970s, Pauline E. Hopkins (1859-1930) was an African American author, journalist, and activist at the beginning of the twentieth century. In Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South (1900), Hopkins’s African American characters craft spaces, both sacred and secular, where they can freely exercise their citizenship in the Jim Crow era. As Hopkins utilizes the sentimentalist genre to portray realistically life at the turn of the century, my thesis highlights the historical and literary significance of sacred spaces like Boston’s black Baptist churches. I also review two minor characters in Hopkins’s novel that have not received much scholarly attention, showcasing Hopkins’s responses to minstrelsy and the “Race Woman” ideology. I then discuss Hopkins’s subversion of the tragic mulatto literary trope. My research positions Hopkins as a seminal American author responding to the historical realities of her time. Hopkins records what it means to be an African American citizen under Jim Crow, reacting to national issues such as racial and gender discrimination, (black) women’s suffrage, minstrelsy, and lynching. Furthermore, my research acknowledges the dual efforts of archivists and literary scholars by expanding the canon of American literature and presenting a fuller narrative of Americanness.


Honors College Award: Excellence in Research