Putting Them on the Map illustrates the Colored Co-operative’s ability to grow its agent network rapidly over a matter of months instead of years, from just 24 agents in June 1900 to a peak of 95 agents from May to December 1901. These numbers might be a fraction of the number of agents employed by mainstream white publishing firms, but they represent a significant accomplishment for a black company with a fraction of the financial resources of white firms during the post-Reconstruction era.
Because of racial bias and disinterest within the mainstream press, information about black newspapers, periodicals and books typically spread within and between local black communities via word-of-mouth in churches, schools and small businesses. The Colored Co-operative went a step further and created a nation-wide network that catered to the black community by publishing the names of its agents every month, giving each one public recognition and a sense of belonging. Many of these individuals signed on hoping to earn the “liberal” (profitable) commissions promised by the company, but given the number of agents who were already gainfully employed, it is likely they sought more than financial gain. They were committed to “building up a great publishing house that shall be the crown and glory of the Negro’s progress” in spite of the rise of Jim Crow.
Use the menu on the right to view maps of the agents’ nationwide locations from June 1900 to July 1904.