The literary materials in Afro-American magazines of the twentieth century weave into a rich narrative. The journals provide insight, not available in a comparable manner elsewhere, into the evolution of Afro-American literature. They trace the contributions made by major figures, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Charles S. Johnson, Alain Locke, and Richard Wright, among several others. They record the discussions over art and propaganda which have been long prominent in black literature. Decade by decade, black artists and intellectuals have debated the function of Afro-American literature: should it serve the aesthetic tastes of the individual writer, or should it advance the interests of Afro-Americans as a group. Some writers favored art-for-art’s sake, or approximations of that emphasis; others articulated the need for art-for-people’s sake, as they termed it.
Little work has been done on individual Afro-American periodicals and nothing, up to this point, has been published on twentieth-century black journals as a group. Studies of magazines in general are relatively rare, with only The Little Magazine, by Frederick Hoffman, Charles Allen, and Carolyn P. Ulrich, attempting a survey of small journals in this century. This book fills a considerable gap in literary history by detailing the development of Afro-American magazines in this century.