African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Fire!! Devoted to the Younger Negro Artists (November 1926)



FIRE ... flaming, burning, searing, and penetrating far beneath
the superficial items of the flesh to boil the sluggish

FIRE ... a cry of conquest in the night, warning those who sleep
and revitalizing those who linger in the quiet places

FIRE .... melting steel and iron bars, poking livid tongues be
tween stone apertures and burning wooden opposition
with a cackling chuckle of contempt.

FIRE ... weaving vivid, hot designs upon an ebon bordered loom
and satisfying pagan thirst for beauty unadorned
the flesh is sweet and real the soul an inward flush
of fire. Beauty? flesh on fire on fire in the furnace of life blazing.

"Fy-ah ,
Fy-ah, Lawd,
Fy-ah gonna burn ma soul!”


A Quarterly Devoted to the Younger
Negro Artists
Wishes to Thank the Following Persons
Who Acted as Patrons
For the First Issue

MAURINE Boie, Minneapolis, Minn.
Nellie R. BRIGHT, Philadelphia, Pa.

ARTHUR HUFF FAUSET, Philadelphia, Pa.
DOROTHY HUNT Harris, New York City
ARTHUR P. Moor, Harrisburg, Pa.
MR. AND Mrs. JOHN PETERSON , New York City
E. B. TAYLOR, Baltimore, Md .

Being a non-commercial product interested only in the arts, it is necessary that we make some
appeal for aid from interested friends. For the second issue of FIRE we would appreciate having
fifty people subscribe ten dollars each, and fifty more to subscribe five dollars each.

We make no eloquent or rhetorical plea. FIRE speaks for itself.



A Quarterly Devoted to the Younger Negro Artists

Premier Issue Edited by

In Association With

Langston Hughes
Zora Neale Hurston
Gwendolyn Bennett
Aaron Douglas
John Davis
Richard Bruce

Table of Contents

DRAWING Richard Bruce

CORDELIA THE CRUDE, A Harlem Sketch... Wallace Thurman
COLOR STRUCK, A Play in Four Scenes ...... Zora Neale Hurston
FLAME FROM THE DARK TOWER .......A Section of Poetry

Countee Cullen
Helene Johnson
Edward Silvers
Waring Cuney
Langston Hughes
Arna Bontemps
Lewis Alexander

DRAWING ........Richard Bruce
WEDDING DAY , A Story.....Gwendolyn Bennett
THREE DRAWINGS.............Aaron Douglas
SMOKE, LILIES AND JADE, A Novel, Part I.................Richard Bruce 
SWEAT, A Story.........Zora Neale Hurston
INTELLIGENTSIA , An Essay.......... Arthur Huff Fauset
FIRE BURNS, Editorial Comment..Wallace Thurman

Number One


314 West 138th Street, New York City
Price $ 1.00 per copy

Issued Quarterly

Page Twenty -three


Page Forty -seven

Fire Burns
A Department of Comment

Some time ago, while reviewing Carl Van Vechten's lava laned Nigger Heaven I made the prophecy that Harlem Negroes, once their aversion to the "nigger" in the title was forgotten, would erect a statue on the corner of 135th Street and Seventh Avenue, and dedicate it to this ultra-sophisticated Iowa New Yorker.

So far my prophecy has failed to pan out, and superficially it seems as if it never will, for instead of being enshrined for his pseudo-sophisticated, semi-serious, semi-ludicrous effustion about Harlem, Mr. Van Vechten is about to be lynched, at least in effigy. . . .

Group criticism of current writings, morals, life, politics, or religion is always ridiculous, but what could be more ridiculous than the wholesale condemnation of a book which only one-tenth of the condemnators have or will read. And even if the book was as vile, as degrading, as defamatory to the character of the Harlem Negro as the Harlem Negro now declares, his criticisms would not be considered valid by an intelligent person as long as the critic had had no reading contact with the book.

The objectors to Nigger Heaven claim that the author came to Harlem, ingratiated himself with Harlem folk, and then with a supercilious grin and a salacious smirk, lolled at his desk downtown and dashed off a pornographic document about uptown in which all of the Negro characters are pictured as being debased, lecherous creatures not at all characteristic or true to type, and that, moreover, the author provokes the impression that all of Harlem's inhabitants are cabaret hounds and thirsty neurotics. He did not tell, say his critics, of our well bred, well behaved church-going majorities, nor of our night schools filled with eager elders, nor of our brilliant college youth being trained in the approved contemporary manner, nor of our quiet, home loving thousands who hardly know what the word cabaret connotes. He told only of the lurid nightlife and of uninhibited sybarites. Therefore, since he has done these things and neglected to do these others the white people who read the book will believe that all Harlem Negroes are like the Byrons, the Lascas, the Pettijohns, the Rubys, the Creepers, the Bonifaces, and the other lewd hussies and whoremongers in the book.

It is obvious that these excited folk do not realize that any white person who would believe such poppy-cock probably believes it anyway, without any additional aid from Mr. Van Vechten, and should such a person read a tale anent our non-cabareting, church-going Negroes, presented in all their virtue and glory and with their human traits, their human hypocrisy and their human perversities glossed over, written, say, by Jessie Fauset, said person would laugh derisively and allege that Miss Fauset had not told the truth, the same as Harlem

Negroes are alleging that Carl Van Vechten has not told the truth. It really makes no difference to the race's welfare what such ignoramuses think, and it would seem that any author preparing to write about Negroes in Harlem or anywhere else (for I hear that DuBose Heyward has been roundly denounced by Charlestonian Negroes for his beautiful Porgy) should take whatever phases of their life that seem the most interesting to him, and develop them as he pleases. Why Negroes imagine that any writer is going to write what Negroes think he ought to write about them is too ridiculous to merit consideration. It would seem that they would shy away from being pigeon-holed, so long have they been the rather lamentable victims of such a typically American practice, yet Negroes would have all Negroes appearing in contemporary literature made as ridiculous and as false to type as the older school of pseudo-humorous, sentimental white writers made their Uncle Toms, their Topsys, and their Mammies, or as the Octavius Roy Cohen school now make their more modern "cullud" folk.

Wallace THURMAN .

This facsimile edition of FIRE !! consists of fourteen
hundred copies, of which one hundred twenty
have been numbered and signed by
Richard Bruce Nugent

P.O. BOX 327



This page has paths:

Contents of this path: