Hermine Popper, a critic, short story writer, and freelance editor, was hired in early 1958 by publishing house Harper & Brothers to edit Martin Luther King’s account of the Montgomery bus boycott, Stride Toward Freedom (1958).
Popper was born in New York City and received her BA (1936) from Radcliffe College. Two years later, she became managing editor and film critic of Theater Arts Magazine, where she worked until 1947. From 1953 to 1956, Popper served as an editor for Harper & Brothers, before leaving the publishing house to become a freelance book editor.
In Popper’s initial review of chapter one of Stride, she wrote in a 21 March 1958 letter that it was a “pleasure” to work on the Montgomery project and reassured King that her job was “to convert, as it were, an expert orator’s style into a writer’s style” (Papers 4:386). Although the two primarily exchanged ideas by mail, Popper did visit Montgomery to help expedite the volume’s production. In Stride, King thanked Popper for her “invaluable editorial assistance,” which ultimately led to her involvement in the editing of two of King’s later books, Why We Can’t Wait (1964) and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967) (King, 11).
Aside from editing, Popper worked for the Urban League of Westchester County for more than 15 years, and wrote short stories appearing in Harper’s and other prominent magazines. She died of cancer at the age of 53.