Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, the Crisis, and American History

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, the Crisis, and American History

Article excerpt

Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, the Crisis, and American History. Edited by Amy Helene Kirschke and Phillip Luke Sinitiere. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2014. Pp. [xiv], 264. $45.00, ISBN 978-08262-2005-9.)

Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, the Crisis, and American History presents a series of essays from scholars representing a variety of disciplines that give greater insight into the content of Crisis--the official journal of the NAACP that was founded by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1910 and continues to be published today. The Crisis, whose circulation in 1919 exceeded that of the more generally known New Republic and Nation, has been one of the most important and influential reform magazines in American history. Yet, as Shawn Leigh Alexander argues in the informative introductory essay, scholars have only just begun to make deeper analyses of the diverse and revealing contents of the magazine.

Most of the essays in the collection analyze the Crisis during its years of greatest influence, the period from 1910 to 1934 when Du Bois served as its editor. The magazine's first task was to combat the rising tide of racism in the early decades of the twentieth century. The Crisis attacked lynching, disenfranchisement, and discrimination while also seeking to build broader support for antiracism. Sometimes this task required delicate political balancing. Garth E. Pauley shows how Du Bois condemned racism within the woman suffrage movement of the 1910s while also giving full support to voting rights for women--a foreshadowing of the sometimes troubled alliance between African American civil rights activists and the feminist movement that became a central component of contemporary liberalism.

Several essays show that Du Bois also sought to accomplish other complementary objectives. The magazine's written and visual contents endeavored to help African Americans develop a shared identity and to assume a more positive and affirming self-image. For example, Amy Helene Kirschke demonstrates how drawings and cartoons in the magazine visually challenged racist depictions of African Americans and presented positive, if romantic, depictions of Africa, which encouraged black Americans to embrace a more Pan-African identity. …

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