Abstract

How should Toni Morrison’s work as a Random House editor be understood? How does it figure, that is, in the larger contexts of literary history, publishing history, and the history of African American expression? Positioning Morrison’s editorial work in relation to the corporate takeover of American publishers and the rise of Black studies programs, this article reconstructs a lost moment in both cultural history and business history. Starting with the story of The Black Book, a “scrapbook-history” of African American experience edited by Morrison and published by Random House in 1974, this article examines the fleeting institutional context that made not just The Black Book but a body of African American writing possible. In doing so, it makes a case for reconsidering how changes to the publishing business, late in the twentieth century, shaped American literary history.

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