First Issue of The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races, November 1910. New York: NAACP, 1910
|Former editors||W. E. B. Du Bois|
|First issue||November 1910|
|Company||The Crisis Publishing Company|
|Based in||New York, NY|
The Crisis is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and was founded in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois (editor), Oswald Garrison Villard, J. Max Barber, Charles Edward Russell, Kelly Miller, W. S. Braithwaite, M. D. Maclean. The magazine continues to be published more than a century later.
The original title of the journal was The Crisis: A Record of The Darker Races. From 1997 to 2003, it appeared as The New Crisis: The Magazine of Opportunities and Ideas, but the title has since reverted to The Crisis. The title derives from the poem "The Present Crisis" by James Russell Lowell. Published monthly, the journal in its first year had a circulation of 1,000 and by 1918 had over 100,000 readers.
Du Bois proclaimed his intentions in his first editorial:
The object of this publication is to set forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people. It takes its name from the fact that the editors believe that this is a critical time in the history of the advancement of men. …Finally, its editorial page will stand for the rights of men, irrespective of color or race, for the highest ideals of American democracy, and for reasonable but earnest and persistent attempts to gain these rights and realize these ideals.
Predominantly a current-affairs journal, The Crisis also included poems, reviews, and essays on culture and history. Du Bois' initial position as editor was in line with the NAACP's liberal program of social reform and racial equality, but by the 1930s Du Bois was advocating a form of black separatism. This led to disputes between Du Bois and the NAACP resulting in his resignation as editor in 1934. He was replaced by Roy Wilkins.
Although The Crisis was officially an organ of the NAACP, Du Bois had a large degree of control over the periodical's expressed opinion. Du Bois wrote in Dusk of Dawn (1940) that he intended for The Crisis to represent his personal opinions:
I determine to make the opinion of the Crisis a personal opinion; because, as I argued, no organization can express definite and clear cut opinions… the Crisis would state openly the opinion of its editor, so long, of course, as that opinion was in general agreement with that of the organization.
Du Bois contends that the periodical suffered during the Great Depression as the "circulation dropped steadily until by 1933 it was scarcely more than ten thousand paid subscriptions." Du Bois left the magazine for both financial and ideological reasons.
Throughout the Du Bois years The Crisis published the work of many young African-American writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Its greatest era as a literary journal was between 1919 and 1926, when Jessie Redmon Fauset was literary editor. Fauset encouraged such writers as Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Jean Toomer.
The Crisis magazine has played a major role in promoting the rise of African-American colleges and the rise of African-American studies. The magazine was interested in how the black academies were operating financially and administratively. The Crisis also highlighted the hardships these colleges endured during their inequality. On many occasions there were featured articles critiquing the methods behind the financial success of major black colleges. For example, in the April 1912 editorial for Fisk University there was dispute in regards to the financial support given to “white institutions” verses “higher education among colored people”. The article describes how the General Education Board offered support to colleges such as Hampton University and Tuskegee University on the condition the college raised a matching donation. However, Fisk was required to raise four times as much to match the donation. The end of The Crisis article asks for reader support and donation.
The Crisis also covered the administrative concerns within the black colleges. For example, in the February 1922 issue, Edward Christopher Williams wrote an article about Howard University. There was a brief history about the opening of Howard and the hardship the administration faced. The article covers the changes the university had gone through in the 52 years they had been open at that time. There was controversy regarding the elimination of the secondary departments of the college, and the many consequences behind removing this deeply rooted portions of the college’s life.
Connection to the Harlem Renaissance
The Crisis was a platform where a number of well-known Harlem Renaissance writers published influential pieces. Some of those contributors are Claude McKay and Langston Hughes. Many of Langston Hughes' poems were published in The Crisis including his first published poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"(1921) and "Lullaby" from the March 1926 publication. Claude McKay published the article, "Soviet Russia and the Negro" in the December 1923 issue from his time abroad. In addition to Hughes and McKay, Jesse Redmon Fauset, an influential female editor of the Harlem Renaissance, was also a major contributor to The Crisis. Fauset acquired a regular column called "The Looking Glass" where she assessed news items and gathered international literary information to share. Fauset then became the Literary Editor for The Crisis shortly after she arrived to New York in 1918.
After Du Bois
The Chicago Tribune named The Crisis one of its "50 Favorite Magazines" in 2008, stating: "This venerable publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has continued to evolve and illuminate since its premier premiere issue in November 1910 (one year after the creation of the NAACP)."
- "First Issue of The Crisis". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- "About The Crisis: Overview". The Crisis. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Richard Wormser, "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, Jim Crow Stories: The Crisis Magazine Established (1910)", PBS.org. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
- "Editorial - Fisk University". The Crisis 3 (6): 245. April 1912. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
- Williams, Edward (February 1922). "Howard University". The Crisis 23 (4): 157–62. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
- Langston, Hughes (March 1926). "Lullaby" (Vol. 31 No. 5). p. 224. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
- McKay, Claude (December 1923). "Soviet Russia and the Negro" (Vol. 27 No. 2). p. 61. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
- Fauset, Jesse (January 1920). "The Looking Glass" (Vol. 19 No. 3). p. 136. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
- Wall, Cheryl (1925). Women of the Harlem Renaissance. p. 45. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
- "NAACP Welcomes Jabari Asim as New Editor of The Crisis", NAACP press release, August 7, 2007.
- "Our 50 Favorite Magazines", The Chicago Tribune, Lifestyles page, July 9, 2008.
- Paul Finkelman, The Crisis, Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
- Amy Helene Kirschke, Art in Crisis: W.E.B. DuBois and the Struggle for African American Identity and Memory. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007.
- Paul G. Partington, The Moon Illustrated Weekly: Black America's First Weekly Magazine. Thornton, CO: C & M Press, 1986.
- The Crisis, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, www.thecrisismagazine.com/
- The Crisis, The Modernist Journals Project, Brown University and University of Tulsa, www.modjourn.org/ —Searchable digital archive of The Crisis (1910-1922).