African American Poetry (1870-1926): A Digital Anthology

Poems in "The Crisis," 1910-1926

The Crisis was a monthly magazine published by the NAACP, which began publication in 1910. Throughout its early years (1910-1934), the magazine was edited by W.E.B. Du Bois, who exerted a strong editorial influence over the magazine's contents. The magazine published poetry, fiction, and even drama throughout its run alongside conventional journalistic articles and opinion. By 1919, The Crisis had a large national subscription base, with as many as 100,000 subscribers (according to David Levering Lewis, the subscription basis was larger than The New Republic's). The literature published in the magazine -- including poetry, fiction and drama -- was widely read, and critics have noted that the magazine had an important impact on the literary culture of the Harlem Renaissance that emerged in the early 1920s. Between 1919 and 1926, Jessie Redmon Fauset served as Literary Editor for The Crisis. During that period of time, many young writers who would later be mainstays of the Harlem Renaissance began publishing poetry and criticism in the pages of the magazineincluding Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Anne Spencer, as well as Fauset herself. In addition to poetry, the newspaper frequently published criticism and reviews of books of poetry by Black poets. The most influential of these might be William Stanley Braithwaite's 1919 essay, "The Negro in American Literature" (a revised version of that essay was later reprinted in Alain Locke's The New Negro: an Interpretation). 

Between 1910 and 1926, the magazine published more than 250 poems by a wide range of authors. Below, you'll find a fairly complete collection of poems by African American authors who published in the magazine. (It's admittedly a large collection, and in the months to come we hope to find ways to organize it to make it more accessible...)

One of the most important figures to have emerged from the pages of The Crisis was Langston Hughes, whose first published poem oriented for adult audiences, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (1921) became a signature poem both in the poet's career and for African American poetry more generally. Hughes published more than 25 poems in The Crisis between 1921-1926 (he also published a number of poems for children in The Brownies' Bookalso edited by Du Bois and Fauset, in 1921). 

Intriguingly, many of the writers who published poems most frequently in The Crisis during this period are not the most famous figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Georgia Douglas Johnson, for instance, established her voice as a poet in the 1910s, and published more than 30 poems in the magazine during these years. Other poets who published often in The Crisis include James D. Corrothers, Lucian B. Watkins, Carrie Williams Clifford, and W.E.B. Du Bois himself (Du Bois published eight poems in The Crisis in the 1910s.) 

A Few Highlights: The poems in this collection are quite heterogeneous. Some poetry published in The Crisis was relatively anodyne love poetry and occasional poetry oriented to various seasons, sometimes with a religious theme (i.e., poems for Easter, Christmas, and the seasons). The magazine also published quite a number of tribute poems for important figures in the Black tradition, including Frederick Douglass and Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Notably, Du Bois and Fauset published quite a number of poems linked to the African American civil right struggle, and many of these poems will continue to have power over readers. A few this editor might recommend exploring include: Langston Hughes, "The Negro," Roscoe Jamison, "Negro Soldiers" , Lucian B. Watkins, "Song of the American Dove", Georgia Douglas Johnson, "A Sonnet: to the Mantled", James Weldon Johnson's "To America", and Countee Cullen's "Threnody for a Brown Girl.".  

Sources: Many of the poems collected on this page were discovered via the digital repostiory of The Crisis at Modernist Journals Project. Others (mainly poems published after 1922) have been sourced from digital versions of The Crisis found on sites like Archive.org and HathiTrust. 

Acknowledgments: This page has benefited from the efforts of Christian Farrior, a Graduate Research Assistant who assisted in retyping and formatting poems from page image format in the summer of 2022. 
 

 

Contents of this tag:

This page references: