The covers of The Crisis communicate the “normality” as well as the Black perspective about the Black experiences in America because it is a direct parallel of their experiences at the time and their perspective and contributions to the different movements including art, and the first world war it shows or is an example of both the alienation and representation that Black people at this time wished to have and see in media that they didn’t have so that they made for themselves. It is media that showed them as actual humans and people and not racist caricatures (sambo as an example below/ means cartoon).
Like Henry Louis Gates, Jr. mentioned in The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black,
“These two figures bear an antithetical relation to each other, and function in a relation of reversal. Whereas the image of a “New Negro” has served various generations of black intellectuals as a sign of plenitude, of regeneration, of a truly reconstructed presence, the image of the black in what I like to think of as “Sambo Art” has served various generations of racists as a sign of lack, of degeneration, of a truly negated absence. The two sets of figures can also be said to have a certain cause-and-effect relation, with the fiction of a Negro American who is “now” somehow “new” or different from an “Old Negro” generated to counter the image in the popular American imagination of the black as devoid of all the characteristics that separate the lower forms of human life from the supposedly higher forms.” (pgs 130-131)
He explains how this Sambo figure and art that was constructed by white people at the time dehumanized and made Black people no more than a caricature that wasn’t taken seriously or seen as capable of any “real” contributions to society especially intellectually. This is why publications such as The Crisis became popular especially among well educated Black people because it showed to them that they weren’t this caricature and they weren’t a “lower life form” than white people but that could do and contribute the exact same things be it art, media or politics regardless of the color of their skin or what racist cartoon and stereotypes showed. This “new” and “old negro” as the reading mentioned, were direct parallels of each other – the creation of the one caused the creation of the other so that each of these images opposed each other, one seen as part of a distant past and the other as the present and future but only to the people who would put their prejudices aside to see it as such.
The pair of covers from the Crisis that I think represents this best are Vol. 18 no.1 and no.2 which shows a black soldier (1919-01-05) craving the words “loyalty’’ on a plack after fighting in a war for a country that didn’t even want and then in Vol. 18, No. 2 (1919-06-01) shows the soldiers go at war ready to fight
Modernist journals: Crisis. Modernist Journals | Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://modjourn.org/journal/crisis/