In November 1910, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races as their official publication. They named W.E.B. DuBois their chief editor, who served until July 1934. The magazine still runs today on a quarterly basis, with a circulation of over 200,000.
In her introduction to The Crisis Reader Sondra Kathryn Wilson calls The Crisis “one of the most influential journals on social and political thought ever seen in America” (xx). She describes The Crisis as a medium for the “strong conviction that the power of literature and art could diminish racial prejudice” (xxiii). This publication sought to give voice to African Americans by publishing across political and literary genres. From its inception the publication fought against the myriad caricatures and misrepresentations of black people in mainstream art and media. To combat these stereotypes, The Crisis published vibrant, passionate, social-justice-oriented black art and media.
The early Crisis played a central role in the Harlem Renaissance (referred to more accurately as the New Negro Renaissance or New Negro Movement) through the voice and vision of W.E.B. DuBois. He believed that the positive presentation of African Americans in art, literature, and media was one of the keys to the advancement of the race. Thus, as he states in his famous essay, ‘Criteria of Negro Art’: “all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists” (296). This opinion acted as a central – and divisive – claim of the early magazine as it competed with more radical publications like Fire!! and Harlem. DuBois didn’t believe in ‘art for art’s sake’; if all art was propaganda, The Crisis would be honest about its art: it was for the advancement of black culture, to “show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested to-day toward colored people”
The magazine curated the cultural production of African American artists, writers, and philosophers with the express purpose of advancing the black race. It helped discover well-known male writers like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Claude McKay. It also published a number of female artists such as Gwendolyn Bennett, Jean Toomer, and the focus of this website: Georgia Douglas Johnson.
Between the years of 1916 and 1922 Georgia Douglas Johnson published over 30 poems in the magazine, partly due to the passion and enthusiasm of Jessie Fauset, the Literary Editor of the magazine. Fauset brought a large number of writers (many of them women) to the magazine, cultivating the rich, creative talent of the Harlem Renaissance. Studies of both New Negro literature and modernism have neglected much of this female talent. Through this site we hope to revive Fauset’s dedication to black women poets, specifically by examining the works of Johnson.
As periodical studies grow, modernism expands, and intersectional studies permeate the two, we begin to see The Crisis as a fitting medium to explore more than just how the NAACP and DuBois depicted African American life at the time. This approach is also a tool for understanding portrayals of black womanhood and the magazine’s pushback against sexist and racist stereotypes, as well as how Georgia Douglas Johnson fits into – or doesn’t fit into – these dominant discourses of modernism, material analysis, and intersectional theory.127470517978125-10
Battey, Cornelius Marion. W.E.B. Du Bois, 1918. 1919. Photograph. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.
Du Bois, W.E.B. “Criteria of Negro Art.” The Crisis Oct. 1926: 290–7. Print.
—. “Editorial.” The Crisis. Nov. 1910: 10. Print.
Ikonné, Chidi. From DuBois to Van Vechten: The Early New Negro Literature, 1903-1926. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981. Print. Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies ; 0069-9624 No. 60,; Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies ; 0069-9624 No. 60.
Thaggert, Miriam. Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010. Print.
Wilson, Sondra K., and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Crisis Reader: Stories, Poetry, and Essays from the N.A.A.C.P.’s Crisis Magazine. 1st ed. New York: Modern Library, 1999. WorldCat Discovery Service. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. Modern Library Harlem Renaissance; Modern Library Harlem Renaissance.