Collections Highlight: "The Crisis"

28 Feb 2024 in

Billy McCarthy, CLA Archivist

The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP, was first published in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois as the first editor-in-chief. He served in that role until 1934. Du Bois wrote that the goal of The Crisis was to “set forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people." The last print issue was published in 2021, but various articles, blogs, and previous issues are available through the NAACP website.

Under Du Bois’s leadership, the magazine flourished, growing from 1,000 subscribers in its first year to over 100,000 by 1918. Du Bois exerted a tremendous amount of creative control during his tenure and used the magazine as a vehicle to express many of his own political views. He was particularly interested in promoting a progressive, dignified image of African American people, promoting the rise of Black colleges, and expressing support for the Pan-African movement. He also used the magazine to expose and criticize discrimination and call for action in response to violence and civil rights abuses perpetrated against Black people. In particular, he called attention to lynching, advocated a ban on the white supremacist film, Birth of a Nation, and highlighted the discrimination faced by African American military servicemen.

Politics and news were a major topical focus for the magazine, but under literary editor Jessie Redmon Fauset’s leadership, The Crisis became a major showcase for African American literary and artistic talent during the Harlem Renaissance. She published early works from such luminaries as Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.

The Congregational Library & Archives holds issues from 1911-1926. This includes Langston Hughes’ first published poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” originally printed in the June 1921 issue. All issues in our collection can be viewed for free in our reading room. The library is currently open by appointment. Email us anytime at to schedule your visit or ask questions.