Crisis, The

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Crisis, The

The Crisis magazine is the official organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was founded in 1910 by its first editor, W. E. B. Du Bois (18681963). The publication's original title for many years was The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races, and its contents over time have continuously reflected its historical importance as the chronicler of African-American history, thought, and culture. The title, Du Bois later wrote, was the suggestion of William English Walling (18771936), a founder of the NAACP.

Du Bois said his object in publishing The Crisis was "to set forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people. It takes its name from the fact [that] the editors believe that this is a critical time in the history of the advancement of men" (Du Bois, 1910, p. 10). The monthly issues contained subject matter ranging from literary works, editorial commentary, feature stories, and reports on NAACP activities to articles on current events. In the first decades, two regular features were "American Negroes in College" and "Along the NAACP Battlefront."

Du Bois served as editor for twenty-four years before retiring in 1934. By that time, The Crisis could boast among its contributors such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Sinclair Lewis, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson. Although founded with the objective of being the official organ of the NAACP, it was also intended to be as self-supporting as possible. But when Du Bois retired as editor in 1934, its circulation had dropped from 100,000 (1918) to only 10,000. His successor as editor was Roy Wilkins (19011981), who served in that role until 1949 before being succeeded by James W. Ivy, who was at the helm during the peak years of the civil rights era, until his retirement in 1966.

During the transition years, The Crisis shifted its focus from the issues of wartime discrimination against African Americans in the U.S. armed forces, lynchings, and other manifestations of Jim Crow policies, to the courts, where rights were being upheld in voter registration, school desegregation, and housing discrimination. By 1988, circulation had risen to 350,000 subscribers. The magazine's basic editorial philosophy changed little over time from that established by Du Bois, but it had attracted enough major national corporate advertisers to place it on solid financial footing. Moreover, the NAACP had changed its policy to require both members and nonmembers to pay the subscription fee.

The Crisis continues with contributors from all walks of African-American life, including leadership in the clergy, academe, business, law, medicine, and other professions. It continues the tradition of serving as the cultural and social "record of the darker races."

See also Du Bois, W. E. B.; Jim Crow; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)


Du Bois, W. E. B. "Opinion." The Crisis 1, no. 1 (1910): 10.

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Autobiography of W. E. Burghardt Du Bois. New York: International, 1968.

Emery, Edwin, and Michael Emery. The Press and America, 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978.

clint c. wilson ii (1996)