When W.E.B. Du Bois founded The Crisis magazine in 1910 there was little discussion of visuals – but the monthly publication from the fledgling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was rich with drawings, political cartoons, photographs and prints. These extraordinary images illustrate the central role art played in Du Bois’ and the NAACP’s struggle to change minds.
Unlike images of African Americans in other magazines, the visuals he published were generated from a black perspective. The artwork is almost always directly tied to important political and social issues of the day, yet it also reflects Du Bois’ attempt to help build a collective memory for black people beyond that shaped by the white-dominated culture they lived within.
Art in Crisis: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Struggle for African American Identity and Memory, by Amy Kirschke (Indiana University Press, 2007) provides an in depth discussion of the issues touched on here. We are grateful for the author’s work on this exhibit and her generous provision of the images to make this presentation possible. The exhibit selections include images from her book and beyond, some of them reproduced in color here for the first time. See Resources for more information.