Aaron Douglass and The Crisis: A Record of the Dark Races
March 1933. Illustration: Zell Ingram. The Crisis: A Record of the Dark Races is a legendary African American magazine that began publication in 1910 and remains in print today. Published under the sponsorship of the NAACP, it was the most widely read and distributed magazine of the Harlem Renaissance. Under …
The Crisis: A Record of the Dark Races is a legendary African American magazine that began publication in 1910 and remains in print today. Published under the sponsorship of the NAACP, it was the most widely read and distributed magazine of the Harlem Renaissance. Under chief editor W.E.B. Du Bois, who oversaw and was responsible for the tone and content until his resignation in 1933, The Crisis not only tackled issues of racial prejudice but also produced spectacular cover art and design. In his essay “The Criteria of Negro Art,” published in the October 1926 issue, Du Bois urged African American artists to address social and political activism in their work.
The magazine was a platform that launched the career of many authors and artists including Aaron Douglas, Laura Wheeler, and Langston Hughes among many more. It was key in the promotion and dissemination of African American art and literature during the Harlem Renaissance. One of the most important accomplishment of the magazine was its unflinching support and providing a stage for many black writers and artists.
Visually, the magazine especially shone when in 1927, Aaron Douglas briefly took over as the artistic director. Under his leadership, the magazine expanded its format, modernized the typography, and gave more prominence to the overall visual look — in addition to the cover illustrations, the magazine published lavish full-page frontispieces.
The influence of these work can be seen today as designers and illustrators constantly turn their attention to the striking art produced by Aaron Douglas and under his direction. A pioneer of the African American modernist movement, Douglass combined aesthetics with ancient African traditional art setting the stage for future African American artist to incorporate elements of African and African American history alongside racial themes in their work.