Marie Dutton Brown is an African American icon and legend who has spent over 50 years selling the grounds for marginalizing writers and editors in an industry that’s constantly trying to close the door on minorities. As the oldest of three children born in 1940 to two educators, one who taught English and the other one taught engineering. With education taking a primary stance with her family, she graduated from Pennsylvania state university with a degree in psychology from the school of education there in 1962. She eventually taught middle school in Philadelphia and served as the education coordinator for the office of intergroup education, which was an initiative throughout Philadelphia public schools to teach children not to become bigoted through diversified curriculums.
While in the position she was in, she met a woman by the name of Loretta Barrett who was an editor at Doubleday at the time. The rest became history : In the past, Barret and Brown’s mothers worked together teaching at the same high school which became destiny that their two daughters would end up working together . So, in the late ‘60s Barret went to a service training meeting where Brown was working to enrich the reading program, Barrett urged her to contact her if she ever visited New York, eventually leading Brown to take on her offer a year later. After meeting for lunch, Barrett asked Brown to come to the Doubleday offices the next day to meet some of her colleagues, and after the meetings, Brown was offered an internship from Doubleday at 27 years old.
Brown eventually moved in with a friend to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York , and started to work at Doubleday that next month. Her internship position helped her garner entry into publishing during the climax of the Civil Rights Movement which is astronomical for a woman of color. The goal at the time was to have multi-ethnic diversity in publishing on topics of slavery , not autobiographies and biographies wrote by African American people.
Furthermore, while continuing work at Doubleday, she worked under Zenith Books, which is an in-print book section that is catered towards African American youth. She ultimately became the only black woman that was an intern in her program as well as being one of only two who remained by the end of the year. This was a rough time in that there was inherent racism that was still going on. Despite this moment of racism , she persevered, and ended up becoming an assistant for Ms. Barrett .
In addition, Brown remained at Doubleday until 1969 then relocated to Los Angeles, California as a freelance editor. She also ended up marrying an artist, and had a daughter (who is also a publicist at Hachette now).
Furthermore, when Brown went back to Doubleday in 1972, she was told that just publishing black authors is null and void and that she had to diversify her list with more authors of different races. The African American culture, therefore had been reduced . Many of the published African American titles, that were based in the history, sociology, and education of black people were being written by Caucasian people. So fewer books were published about the African American experience leading Brown to question whether or not black people were reading or writing their own stories.
Moreover, while still working at Doubleday , Brown worked with Marita Golden, Emeritus of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and the scholar Mary Helen Washington, all while developing connections with other black editors and writers, such as Charles F. Harris and Toni Morrison. She published titles like the Darden sisters’ “Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine,” and Mari Evans’s “Black Women Writers.”
During this period in the ‘70s, black books became the trendy thing to have , and, other editors would obtain the books without fully recognizing their audience. Brown, would go on to argue that many of the books coming out were stating things that black readers already understood , posing conflicts for the editors that were black.
When 1982 hit, as the first black woman to hold this position (as an editor) , Brown left the Senior Editor position at Doubleday. In an interview done with Elle Magazine, Brown stated that Doubleday was in the midst of being sold as the publishing business was taking a turn, causing confusion among editors. In an interview done with Elle Magazine, Brown stated that Doubleday was in the midst of being sold as the publishing business was taking a turn, causing confusion among editors. Editors were being offered other jobs but no one offered her anything because she was a black woman.
Alas, an opportunity came along for Brown to become the Editor-in-Chief of “Elan,” a magazine catered to the black female. Unfortunately, she and her team only managed to publish three issues before the entire magazine came to an end. Afterwards, Brown became a bookseller at Endicott Books , now formally known as Book Culture, before her contacts, including her former mentor Loretta Barrett and a young African American associate editor named Gerald Gladney, inquiring to Brown that she publish their authors.
Subsequently, among the midst of the ‘80s, the propagation of copy shops had begun. Unlike the ‘60s and ‘70s, writers now began making copies of the manuscripts of their books to send to various publishing houses. Because of the previous ways editors kept track of manuscripts that were of interest to them , the responsibility fell on writers, which made the system a bit convoluted. To fill in the gaps and what she saw as a key component to strengthen the industry, in 1984, Marie Dutton Brown Associates was born in Harlem, New York. She progressed into a literary agent, copying and reading authors manuscripts, serving as a channel between writers and editors, making it a point to this day, to uplift the relegated as they all deserve a chance to have their voices heard.