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New York weekly journal founded “to discuss current affairs … to maintain true democratic principles; to work for the equality of 'the laboring class of the South'; … the elevation of the Negro; to fix public attention on the importance of public education; … criticize books and works of art soundly and impartially.” Its first editor (1865–81) was E. L. Godkin; early contributors included C. E. Norton, Howells, the three Jameses, D. C. Gilman, W. C. Brownell, Fiske, Parkman, C. F. Adams, Sumner, and F. W. Taussig. Among the causes for which the magazine worked were civil service and tariff reforms, proportional representation in the legislature, and the ousting of corrupt politicians such as the Tweed Ring. The Nation was also rigorous in its criticism of literature and the arts. It was sold to the New York Evening Post (1881), of which Godkin became the editor. Under W. P. Garrison (1881–1906), it continued its original policies, although as a subsidiary of the Post it lost its prestige. Garrison and later editors, including P. E. More (1909–14), drew on the same distinguished contributors, although adding many new literary figures. In 1918 O. G. Villard became editor and severed the connection with the Post. He continued the magazine's liberal stand, opposing the ratification of the Versailles Treaty, sympathetically interpreting the new Russian state, and making the journal a distinguished commentary on international affairs. The literary editors whose views influenced liberal letters included the Van Dorens, John Macy, Ludwig Lewisohn, and J. W. Krutch, and James Agee reviewed films during the 1940s. Villard retired in 1933, selling the magazine in 1935, but it continued its campaign for social justice, although for a time under the editorship of Freda Kirchwey (1933–55) this characteristic was thought to be diminished. Carey McWilliams, who had been associated with the magazine since 1945, was editor, 1955–79. Under him and since his time it continues to be a feisty left-wing commentator on the national and international scene, as well as a review of books and the arts by writers who include James Baldwin, E. L. Doctorow, Studs Terkel, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Subjects: Literature.

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