Penguin Books, also known as Penguin Random House, is a publishing company that was founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane, a British publisher. At the time, Lane noticed a lack of affordable and high-quality paperback books that were available to the general public. Most books were expensive and available only in hardcover, making them inaccessible to many people.
To address this issue, Lane came up with the idea of creating a series of paperback books that would be sold for the low price of sixpence (about the cost of a packet of cigarettes at the time). He enlisted the help of his brothers Richard and John Lane, and together they founded Penguin Books.
The first Penguin paperbacks were published in July 1935 and included works by popular authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers. The books were designed to be easily recognizable, with distinctive orange and white covers, and the company's logo of a penguin was designed by Edward Young.
The initial response to the Penguin paperbacks was mixed, but the company soon found success, particularly after World War II, when paper shortages and rationing made hardcover books even more expensive and difficult to obtain. Today, Penguin Random House is one of the largest publishing companies in the world, with offices in more than 20 countries and a diverse range of imprints and publishing divisions.
Penguin Books has a long history of publishing works by authors of color, and it is difficult to pinpoint the first person of color author to be published by the company, as this information may not be readily available or documented.
However, some notable early authors of color published by Penguin include Langston Hughes, who had his poetry and prose published by Penguin in the 1950s and 1960s, and Chinua Achebe, whose acclaimed novel "Things Fall Apart" was published by Penguin in 1958.
Since then, Penguin has continued to publish works by a diverse range of authors of color, including Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and many others. The company has also launched various initiatives and programs aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in publishing, such as the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards, which offers scholarships and support to young writers from underrepresented communities.
Find out more about Penguin House awards here: https://social-impact.penguinrandomhouse.com/.