Beacon Press celebrates 150 years of publishing
Beacon Press, a department of the Unitarian Universalist Association, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, a notable achievement for an independent publishing house in this age of corporate mergers and takeovers.
Founded in 1854 as The American Unitarian Association press, Beacon has a long and distinguished history of publishing books on progressive subjects, starting with sermons favoring abolition, women's rights, and tolerance for religious diversity. Since then, the press has continued to provide a forum for the liberal voice by publishing such authors as James Baldwin, Jean Baker Miller, Cornel West, Howard Zinn, and Mary Daly. The press gained national attention in 1971 by publishing the Pentagon Papers after 35 other publishers turned it away. In addition to its nonfiction, Beacon is noted for its publication of fiction and poetry, counting Octavia Butler, Edwige Danticat, and Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning poet Mary Oliver among its authors.
To honor the anniversary Beacon designed a new logo, commissioned a history of the press, held several receptions, and had displays in bookstores around the country. Says Tom Hallock, associate publisher and director of sales and marketing, “The anniversary served to raise Beacon's profile within the book industry.”After some financial instability, Beacon closed its 2003 fiscal year $304,000 better than planned and projects another strong finish for fiscal year 2004. The press's success is due in part to the support of both congregations and individual UUs. Says Beacon Press director Helene Atwan, “We feel very lucky to have such an enthusiastic base of stakeholders in Unitarian Universalist congregations.”