In the early years, the circulation of the magazine exceeded the NAACP membership. Du Bois utilized the pages of the periodical, particularly his editorials, to enlist more members. Month after month The Crisisexpounded the NAACP program, reported the activities of the organization and appealed for membership. A January, 1914, editorial concluded with the exhortation:"Join the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE or be strangled to a slow and awful death by growing prejudice."
Editing the official publication of an organization while insisting on expressing oneself presented a dilemma for a person as fiercely independent as Du Bois. "There was, " he says in his Autobiography, "the delicate matter of policy; of how far I should express my own ideas and reactions in The Crisis or the studied judgment of the organization." He asserted the right of the editor to express his opinion "so long as that opinion is in general agreement with that of the organization ....It was perhaps rather unusual that for two decades the two lines of thinking ran so largely together...It took on the part of the organization, a great deal of patience and faith to allow me the latitude that they did for so many years; and on the other hand I was enabled to lay down for the NAACP a clear, strong and distinct body of doctrine that could not have been stated by majority vote. It was probably inevitable that in the end a distinct and clear-cut difference of on major policies should lead to the dissolution of this interesting partnership."
The end came in 1934 when Du Bois published a series of editorials over a six-month period in which he advocated "fighting segregation with segregation." This Du Bois opinion was not "in general agreement with that of the organization." His resignation was accepted by the NAACP Board "with deepest regret." The long resolution of acceptance reviewed Dr. Du Bois; many achievements and highly praised his editorship of The Crisis which "transformed the Negro world as well as a large portion of the liberal white world, so that the whole problem of the relation of black and white races has ever since had a completely new orientation...Without him the Association could never have been what it was and is."
Starting with only an idea and practically no capital, Du Bois developed one of the most influential journals of opinion in the nation's history. Crisis editorials and articles were widely read, reprinted and quoted far beyond the magazine's subscribers. Du Bois opened pages of the magazine to young and unknown black writers as well as to long established authors of both races. Among the latter were James Weldon Johnson, Vachel Lindsay, Benjamin G. Brawley, Fenton Johnson, H. L. Mencken, Charles W. Chesnutt, Clement Wood, Leslie Pinckney Hill, Mary White Ovington, William English Walling, J. E. Spingarn, William Pickens and later to writers like Claude McKay, Walter White and E. Franklin Frazier.
The Crisis consistently encouraged the development of the arts playing an important role in the Negro renaissance of the 1920s - the movement which nurtured such poets and writers as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Frank Horne, Rudolph Fisher, Sterling Brown, Gwendolyn Bennet, Arna Bontemps, Bruce Nugent, Jean Toomer, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Eric Walrond, and painters like Hale Woodruff and Aaron Douglas. Some of these found their first outlet for publication in The Crisis. Du Bois used works of well-known photographers like Battey and Scurlock and paintings and drawings of artists like William Edward Scott, John Henry Adams, Laura Wheeler, Albert A. Smith, Frank Walts, Woodruff and Douglas. Later the works of younger artists such as Charles Alston, E. Simms Campbell and Romare Bearden were published in the magazine. For several years the magazine conducted literary contests with prizes offered by Mrs. Amy Spingarn and others.
Writing in the fortieth anniversary issue of the magazine (March, 1951), George S. Schuyler, the journalist, said: "Then came The Crisis, like a clear, strong breeze cutting through the miasma of Negrophobism. Here for the first time with brilliance, militancy, facts, photographs and persuasiveness, a well-edited magazine challenged the whole concept of white supremacy then nationally accepted....It is no exaggeration to say that the early Crisis created an intellectual revolution in the most out-of-way places....It became the bible of the militant Negro of the day and 'must' reading for the growing number of his white champions."
Du Bois was a pioneer advocate of the black beauty concept and of black power although he refrained from attaching a color tag. In his "Immediate Program of the American Negro" (April, 1915) he asserted: "The Negro must have power; the power of men, the right to do, to know, to feel and express that knowledge, action and spiritual gift. He must not simply be free from the political tyranny of white folk, he must have the right to vote and rule over the citizens, white and black, to the extent of his proven foresight and ability."
He early instituted special editions of The Crisis. Once a year an edition was devoted primarily to education and another to children. Occasionally other special issues were published. For years each issue carried a page of excellent verse, usually by black poets. The magazine was avidly read by the eager Negro youth of that period and had a profound impact upon their intellectual development.
|page 1 | 2 | 3|