Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Crisis, May 1915

In this issue of The Crisis, I came across this double-column piece on page 45. It is quoted from a Bristol, Tennessee paper, and presented without commentary:

The police were indicted and charged with murder. This story was not posted as a lynching in the space The Crisis reserves for recording that crime (see page 12). It is instead placed as the second-to-last piece in the whole issue, though not, I think, as an afterthought.

It is an example of TC's deft use of secondary materials. Much of TC each month takes place in long lists of events of interest to the readership of the journal, naturally inclining to people of color. The Crisis is powerful in part because it is a voracious record. It is also indelible.

Because of my rudimentary skills, I've had trouble getting the text of each block to be the same size: my apologies. 

The biggest piece of news in this issue is the release of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, and is also, to my memory, the first time I've encountered criticism of a specific film in the Modernist Journals Project. The NAACP uses this moment as a chance to display their effective organization, as "Fighting Race Calumny" provides a day-by-day account of the NAACP's actions against the film. The editorial also contains a response to The Clansman, as the film is referred to in the journal. Du Bois, the editor, fulminates against the film, noting that "a number of marvelously good war pictures" precede "the second part... the real 'Clansman.'" This gives credit to Griffith's first half, and Du Bois calls not for the the total suppression of the film, but of its second half. That's a side note, though, to the strong and consistent criticism of the film and the concerted campaign to protest against it.

This issue also contains TC's response to Vachel Lindsay's "The Congo." It is characteristically terse:

"Colored readers may be repelled at first at Lindsay's great poem but it is, in its spirit, a splendid tribute with all its imperfections of spiritual insight. In a private letter Lindsay says:" (18)

There follows a long and rambling letter from Lindsay, making clear his good intentions, which TC at this point, at least, seems to tolerate without accepting them. Notably, he talks about the poem as if it was a painting, and perhaps an impressionist or post-impressionist painting at that. Also notably, he claims it was inspired by Joseph Conrad.

There's much, much more here. But that's all for now--

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