W.E.B. Du Bois & The Crisis

When W. E. B. Du Bois founded The Crisis in 1910 as the house magazine of the NAACP, he created what is arguably the most widely read and influential periodical about race and social injustice in U.S. history. Written for educated African American readers, the magazine reached a truly national audience within nine years, when its circulation peaked at about 100,000. In the twelve years that will be covered by the MJP edition (from 1910 to 1922), The Crisis addressed most every facet of life for Black Americans, devoting special issues to such topics as women's suffrage, education, children, labor, homes, vacations, and the war. From the start, the magazine actively promoted the arts as well, and is deservedly recognized as an important crucible for the Harlem Renaissance.

Use in classrooms
The following questions can be used to prompt inquiry as students and teachers work with The Crisis and investigate the historical context, as well as legacy, of this publication:

  • What was the history of publications for and by Black Americans prior to The Crisis?
  • Why was The Crisis deemed necessary in 1910?
  • Who was the intended audience of The Crisis?
  • Whose perspectives were included in issues of The Crisis?
  • Select a topic (i.e. education, voting, labor, housing, etc.) and analyze issues of The Crisis to determine the extent to which tone, critiques, and progress change over time.
  • What do the advertisements and the publication's policies on advertising tell us about the time and journalistic integrity?
  • How do stories included in issues of The Crisis compare to stories and perspectives presented within other newspapers at the time? (work with newspapers available in our Chronicling America database).
  • What does an independent media offer to public discourse?
  • To what extent are issues and arguments included in The Crisis over 100 years ago still relevant today?
  • Are there contemporary examples of The Crisis in the U.S. today?
  • What might a 21st century version of The Crisis include?