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Millenia Black Settles Lawsuit with Penguin Over Race

Millenia Black announced that the settlement of her suit with Penguin over the allegations that Penguin tried to make her write black characters. As a part of the settlement, Black had to purge every reference to the suit from her site as well as refrain from any future discussion. Oddly, some people deem this as a victory. It’s a victory for someone, but I don’t think it’s a victory for African American authors particularly in light of the gag and purge order.

The very fact that the discussion is completely stifled doesn’t illuminate bad practices or even prevent the actions that were alleged from happening in the future.

Settlements are victories only for the parties involved, not for the classes the parties might represent. This case can’t be used as a sword by any other author in the future and with the gag and purge order, the discussion around it is quieted. I would actually argue that the winner is Penguin and wonder about the strength of the allegations due to the fact the outcome would seem to indicate that Black herself had little leverage. The gag order, you see, is common. The purging? Uncommon.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

8 Comments

  1. Robin
    May 13, 2008 @ 20:56:26

    Although I hope the positive reaction of some AA authors to this resolution will help keep the fire burning, so to speak, I agree that the gag and purge is *not good at all*. In fact, when you think about the filing of a legal case as the right of someone to appeal for justice, to speak of wrongs done them and to have an answer and a remedy, the silencing of Black feels a bit to me like three steps back to two steps forward. Even if she had lost in court (assuming she could get representation for a trial), there would have been *something* on legal record to build on for similarly situated authors.

    I don’t know — it seems to me that this case was all about creative freedom and the ability of Black to express herself in the way she wanted to, and the gag and purge (a little legal bulimia here?) feels to me like the kind of silencing she was fighting against to begin with.

    Of course I probably have more faith in the judicial system as a whole than I do in one publishing house that is particularly invested in the issue.

  2. Ann Somerville
    May 13, 2008 @ 22:38:15

    Penguin can gag her, but fortunately they can’t gag anyone else. Kudos to you and Karen Scott for publicising this, though I agree with you, it’s not really a victory for AA authors.

  3. jmc
    May 14, 2008 @ 07:49:51

    The terms of the settlement can’t be discussed, but I wonder whether it was entirely monetary or if a Penguin imprint will ultimately be publishing her work. Being a cynic and a pessimist, I’m guessing not.

    Which makes me wonder whether Ms. Black will be published by a mainstream publisher in the future, or if she will be shut out by big publishing houses in light of her suit.

  4. kardis
    May 14, 2008 @ 08:07:12

    I am glad that the case is settled and I do hope that Ms Black will continue to be published. The gag and purge part of the settlement makes me sick, frankly. I agree with others that it seems like a win for Penguin in that regard. I think the best thing to be done is for the blogging community to continue to speak out about this, because Penguin cannot force us into silence.

  5. Sharon
    May 14, 2008 @ 12:13:34

    As a part of the settlement, Black had to purge every reference to the suit from her site as well as refrain from any future discussion. Oddly, some people deem this as a victory. It's a victory for someone, but I don't think it's a victory for African American authors particularly in light of the gag and purge order. I think we should be careful what we assert as fact Jane, because how do you know what was ordered? Karen Scott quotes her and that’s not what is said…did you get that from another source? If not, I think it’s a mistake to say that. For all we know, they could’ve paid her to remove the references as part of the settlement so we can’t assume anything……I do see it as a victory because I think penguin and all publishers will think twice now about this type of thing. -Sharon

  6. Sharon
    May 14, 2008 @ 12:18:03

    Sorry I meant to apply quotes to Jane’s portion above, sorry! Here it is again corrected…

    As a part of the settlement, Black had to purge every reference to the suit from her site as well as refrain from any future discussion. Oddly, some people deem this as a victory. It's a victory for someone, but I don't think it's a victory for African American authors particularly in light of the gag and purge order.

    I think we should be careful what we assert as fact Jane, because how do you know what was ordered? Karen Scott quotes her and that's not what is said…did you get that from another source? If not, I think it's a mistake to say that. For all we know, they could've paid her to remove the references as part of the settlement so we can't assume anything……I do see it as a victory because I think penguin and all publishers will think twice now about this type of thing. -Sharon

  7. Nonny
    May 15, 2008 @ 17:43:04

    I’m glad that Black is satisfied with the outcome; I can’t even imagine what the poor woman has gone through for the past two years. As a social issue, however, I agree in that this is hardly a “victory.” It’s a settlement, one that will hopefully allow Black to continue on with her writing career peacefully.

    That said, because Black took a stand and sued Penguin, hopefully other publishers will think before pulling the same sort of bullshit.

  8. Inside me, there’s a thin woman trying to get out. But I can usually shut the cow up with chocolate. - Southern Fried Chicas
    May 19, 2010 @ 19:23:00

    […] the Millenia Black/Penguin Books brouhaha? For those who don’t, Black, author of the self-published title, The Great Pretender, filed a […]

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