Category Archives: Crisis Magazine

Crisis Queen

The Crisis Magazine Cover March 1913
Photograph of a woman with a crown and scepter.

The Crisis started out as a publication with the intent of highlighting real African American culture. The many aesthetically pleasing covers we see not only created a national buzz, but they also emphasized identity.

The Crisis in its layout and content stages a jointly political and aesthetic conflict. Columns of numbers arranged chronologically, building to the present, attest to the contemporary consolidation of a black print culture, one that can simultaneously distribute positive images of African Americans and take out negative ones.” (p.81, Harris, Printing the Color Line in The Crisis) 

Prior to this publication, African Americans were painted in a way as viewed by white people. The Crisis combatted racial prejudice and sought to paint African Americans how they rightfully should be portrayed. It was important to ensure that these covers were seen as proper and pleasing to the eye. Not only to help prevent discrimination, but also to accentuate the magnificence of African Americans. Seeing covers of beautiful women, proper-looking men, athletes, educated people, etc. invokes a sense of amazement. It makes you wonder, how are these covers influencing the people and their identities?

 The queen we see in the March 1913 cover oozes strength and excellence. She does the job of being appealing in a political way, but there’s also something else. She’s beautiful, she’s graceful…she’s an it-girl. For all the girls grabbing this cover, it must’ve made them proud. She appeals to readers because she influences thoughts like “I am a queen”, or  “I am strong”, or even “I am a leader”. The cover creates self-confidence and the idea that I am worth it, and I too can be that girl. It’s a wonderful feeling to feel represented and portrayed in such a positive light. 

As Harris suggests, “The Crisis becomes quite clear here: first, it wants to aggregate information on African American achievements and circulate them to a national reading public so as to provide a counterhistory to racist mass culture, but it also wants to project a future when such work will not be necessary—that is, like the eponymous character in Cather’s “Ardessa,” a future in which it will have worked itself out of a job.” ( p.69, Harris, Printing the Color Line in The Crisis) 

 The Crisis calls attention to the importance of identity. African Americans have, for so long, fought to receive dignity and human respect. These publications shed light on the idea that African Americans have an identity. And it’s just as strong as any other race. So, while the basis of The Crisis was to counter injustices, its long-term goal is more than that. It hopes to reach a point in time where there is no more need to defend the race. It hopes to reach peace and continue on printing publications that share who African Americans are and what makes them so special. It hopes to highlight pride and show the new generations how stunning and talented their ancestors before them were and how they too are just as extraordinary. It should also invoke a sense of drive to want to love and be the best version of yourself.  



Uplifting the New Negro

The covers of The Crisis characterize the misconstrued thoughts, feelings, and way of life that black people experience in America. These covers are for the hopeful, defiant, and blueprints for the soon-to-be black nationalists. These covers suggest that the New Negro are viable beings. That the New Negro is a survivor. New Negros  continue to evolve through their confounding experience in America. The New Negro did not die. Despite micro-aggressions and the patent target for several acts of violence, the New Negro multiplies. Beautiful black babies are portrayed with their mothers (Crisis Volume 11, Fig 1). Or these babies are portrayed on their own (Crisis Volume.5, No. 6& Crisis Volume 10, No.6). These black babies vitalize hope for the New Negro to become a black nationalist. These babies symbolize the continuation of the New Negros. They stand out to remind the New Negro that there is hope to meet others like themselves in America.  The New Negro no longer suffers an identity crisis or questions their representation in areas outside the home.

The New Negro are innovators and architects. Like Maya Angelou says, The New Negro starts to rise (“Still I Rise”). They are achieving feats that were once considered impossible. From large barriers to entry for higher education. The Crisis broke the barrier of the New Negro’s lack of nonviolent representation in the media(Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 137). The Crisis covers do not paint the New Negro with oversized features or use them for ignorant entertainment purposes. Parting through that barrier and receiving secondary degrees(Crisis Volume 24, No.4 & Vol. 20, No. 3). The New Negro is a divine athlete (Crisis Volume 22, No.5), an educator (Crisis Volume 24, No.1), and a person of endless possibilities. These covers are reframing the ignorant associations that pursued New Negro  women into educated, empowered, talented, and “sweet”  (Gates, Jr., 142), beings.

The New Negro finds love (Crisis Volume 8 No.3) with one another. Defiant in destructing their trauma. Or the newfound comfort in their shared oppression. They empathize and sympathize through their experiences. Together they are “to defy” (Gates, Jr., 147) their oppressors with their common language. Together they become a strong force with their common misconstrued thoughts, feelings, and way of life. Hope and defiance are built with their togetherness as the New Negro joins an unwelcoming society. They are defiant in surviving in this society and embarking on the blueprint to becoming a black nationalist. They are eager to share their undying love for themselves with future generations to erase years of trauma. Defiant in excess love from themselves as it is scarce from anyone else.

The New Negro is a delight. The New Negro are divine and defiant delights. The New Negro is a half step away from a black nationalist.  Enchanting in their achievements through their pains. The New Negro is kindred to the flower sprouting anew from the moribund ones below (Crisis Vol. 20, No. 2).  The New Negro is reborn from the captivity of a blasphemous narrative. The New Negro is a delight. The New Negro is starting to make triumphant noises in their freedom for Harlem and the rest of the world to witness. The New Negro amplifies their activities of educating, marrying, and completing tasks made strenuous because they were not created with a New Negro in mind. The New Negro is a delight.

Gates, Henry Louis. “The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black.” Representations, no. 24, 1988, pp. 129–55.

Du, Bois W. E. B. The Crisis. New York: Crisis Pub. Co, 1910-

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro amplifying his freedom in poetry”: Vol. 9, No. 4 (February 1915)

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro woman and her baby amplifying their life”: The Crisis, Vol. 11, No. 4. (February 1916)

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro encouraging his brethren to amplify their voice and not be silent”: The Crisis, Vol. 13, No. 5. (March 1917)

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro woman amplifying her education possibilities”: The Crisis, Vol. 24, No. 4. (August 1922)

Endorsement of New Negros by New Negros

Imaginative work leaves ample room for the viewer to interpret the piece according to their own needs. Nonfiction work slashes the room for interpretation to an infinitely small percentage. Fictive work concerns the viewer with the appearance of what the creator intends. Nonfictive work concerns the viewer with the actuality of what the creator intends. Nonfictive work does not oppose ignorance whereas fictive does. Poems are open to interpretation and data is not.

It may seem that there is no grey area between the two, but this is untrue. There is the possibility of the crossover between data transforming into nonfiction and fictive work. This crossover is the equation for success. Not only does it capture the audience of nonfiction and fiction hysterics, leading to a greater audience, but it can deliver its purpose soundly.

Du Bois Crisis magazine was able to successfully find a balance between appearance and actuality. Not only did it find a balance but other magazines began to copy its style (“Printing the Color Line in The Crisis”, Donal Harris 69).  The Crisis “magazine work are known for a realism that, if anything, verges on the archetypalism and abstraction of romance” (Harris 86). There is realism in The Crisis covers because they characterize the New Negro in their everyday life. There is nothing fictitious about the New Negro graduating (Du Bois, Crisis Vol. 24, No.4)  or finding love (Du Bois, Crisis Vol. 8, No.3). However, as the viewer concerns themself with the cover of Du Bois’s magazines, the content is far from imaginary. If the viewer only pays attention to the art, they fall into the trap of  “‘hodge-podge”‘ (Harris 64). As a result, they lose the message of the New Negro. They lose their ability to hear the New Negro’s voice.

Du Bois comments and actively works towards dismantling the oppression of the New Negro(Harris 81). He speaks the common tongue of the New Negro. He informs and advertises for fellow New Negros. He places a megaphone on the New Negro’s voice. He places a magnifying glass on the written voices of New Negros. Although not many artists and writers were able to represent themselves in The Crisis, their voices reached broader audiences for the first time.

Similarly, there is a grey area of success between data and poems.  Data is not easily manipulated unless you are trying to swindle your audience. Claude McKay in his poem, “Like a Strong Tree”, manipulated data to strengthen the image of the New Negro. The New Negro is “Like a strong tree that reached down, deep, deep, For sunken water, fluid underground” (Mckay 1). There is substantial evidence that sturdy trees “send their roots many meters down to the saturated zone just above the groundwater table” (“Without Much Rain, Roots Dive Deep to Find Water”, Todd Bates-Rutgers 1).  A sturdy tree is also “resourceful and resilient to environmental stress and climate change” (Bates-Rutgers 1). McKay supports this in his poem by comparing the New Negro to a strong tree “against a thousand storms” (McKay 1). The New Negro is resilient and adapts to a lack of support in their newfound freedom through grounding themselves through their united and intensified voice.

Bates-Rutgers, Todd. “Without Much Rain, Roots Dive Deep to Find Water.” Futurity, Futurity, 18 Sept. 2017,

McKay, Claude. “Like a Strong Tree by Claude McKay – Poems | Academy of American Poets.”, Academy of American Poets, 1925,

Harris, Donal. “Printing the Color Line in The Crisis.” On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines, Columbia University Press, 2016, pp. 61–106. JSTOR,
Du, Bois W. E. B. The Crisis. New York: Crisis Pub. Co, 1910-