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Messenger


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The Messenger, a monthly journal (1917–1928), was remarkable for its editorials, occasional literature, and varied appeal. Variously subtitled, it was first a spartan Journal of Scientific Radicalism or the Only Radical Negro Magazine in America, describing itself as the “first publication to recognize the Negro problem as fundamentally a labor problem.” Scintillating editorials by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen rebuked President Warren G. Harding for endorsing California's exclusion of Japanese immigrants or lambasted W. E. B. Du Bois for “demagogy” regarding socialist revolution, while sociopolitical poems by Claude McKay and the memoirs of Bartolomeo Vanzetti appeared as occasional literature. Beginning in 1923, however, the Messenger as New Opinion of the New Negro or World's Greatest Negro Monthly began to feature what it called “pure literature”—poems by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Fashion-plate covers and society photographs dominated until 1926, when muscular workers again appeared on the cover and the Messenger became the official organ of Randolph's Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Thanks, however, to Wallace Thurman's brief managing editorship, in these last two years the Messenger also published Zora Neale Hurston's “Eatonville Anthology” and Hughes's first short stories.

Langston Hughes, The Big Sea, 1940.Chidi Ikonné, From Du Bois to Van Vechten: The Early New Negro Literature, 1903–1926, 1981.

— Craig Howard White

Subjects: United States History — Literature.


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