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Four Publications of the Harlem Renaissance

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Four Publications of the Harlem Renaissance

The Crisis, 1910

Public Domain

The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement, was actually a culture development that began in 1917 and ended in 1937 with the publication of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Over twenty years, Harlem Renaissance writers and artists explored themes such as assimilation, alienation, racism and pride through the creation of novels, essays, plays, poetry, sculpture, paintings and photography.

Yet these writers and artists would not have been able to launch their careers without having their work seen by the masses. Four notable publications--The Crisis, Opportunity, The Messenger and Marcus Garvey's Negro World printed the work of many African-American artists and writers-helping the Harlem Renaissance become the artistic movement that made it possible for African-Americans to develop an authentic voice in American society.

The Crisis

Established in 1910 as the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The Crisis was the preeminent social and political magazine for African-Americans. With W. E. B. Du Bois as its editor, the publication stuck by its subtitle: "A Record of the Darker Races" by devoting its pages to events such as the Great Migration. As a result, by 1919, magazine had a circulation of almost one hundred thousand copies monthly. That same year, Du Bois hired Jessie Redmon Fauset as literary editor of the publication. For the next eight years, Fauset devoted her efforts to promoting the work of up and coming African-American writers such as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and Nella Larsen.

Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life

As the official magazine of the National Urban League (NUL), the mission of the publication was to "lay bare Negro life as it is." Launched in 1923, editor Charles Spurgeon Johnson began the publication by publishing research findings and essays. However, by 1925, Johnson was publishing literary works of young artists such as Zora Neale Hurston. That same year, Johnson organized a literary contest--the winners were Hurston, Hughes and Cullen. In 1927, Johnson anthologized the best pieces of writing published in the magazine. The collection was entitled Ebony and Topaz: A Collectanea and featured the work of members of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Messenger

The politically radical publication was established by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen in 1917. Originally, Owen and Randolph were hired to edit a publication entitled Hotel Messenger by African-American hotel workers. However, when the two editors wrote a blaring article that exposed union officials of corruption, the paper ceased printing. Owen and Randolph quickly rebounded and established the journal The Messenger. Its agenda was socialist and its pages included a combination of news events, political commentary, book reviews, profiles of important figures and other items of interest. In response to the Red Summer of 1919, Owen and Randolph reprinted the poem "If We Must Die" written by Claude McKay. Other writers such as Roy Wilkins, E. Franklin Frazier and George Schuyler also published work in this publication. The monthly publication ceased publication in 1928.

The Negro World

Published by the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), The Negro World had a circulation of more than 200,000 readers and was published in several languages including English, Spanish and French. The newspaper was dispersed throughout the United States, African and the Caribbean. Its publisher and editor, Marcus Garvey, used the pages of the newspaper to "preserve the term Negro for the race as against the desperate desire of other newspapermen to substitute the term 'coloured' for the race." Every week, Garvey provided readers with a front page editorial concerning the plight of people in the African Diaspora. Garvey's wife, Amy, served as an editor as well and managed the "Our Women and What They Think" page in the weekly news publication. In addition, The Negro World included poetry and essays that would interest people of African descent throughout the world. Following Garvey's deportation in 1933, The Negro World ended its weekly publication.

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