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Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » Framing Identity: Representations of Empowerment and Resilience in the Black Experience » Groundbreaking Publications: The Colored American Magazine

Groundbreaking Publications: The Colored American Magazine

Groundbreaking Publications: The Colored American Magazine

“It is the picture of life contrasted with the fact of life, the ideal contrasted with the real, which makes criticism possible. Where there is no criticism there is no progress, for the want of progress is not felt where such want is not made visible by criticism.  It is by looking upon this picture and upon that which enables us to point out the defects of the one and the perfections of the other.

Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers — and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements.  They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.”

Frederick Douglass

Pictures and Progress

An essential aspect of Identity is the construction of cultural conversations for the free exchange of ideas.  Our experiences shape and reflect our point of view that we communicate with the world.   Periodicals are a frame that holds the intersections of critical thought and cultural achievements.   The selected works featured on this page expand on the concept of Identity by conveying community ideas expressed through print culture.  The following examples explore the roles we play as contributors, innovators, and reformers to evolve a better society.

The Colored American Magazine. 
August 1900.  Vol 1, No. 3.

The Colored American Magazine was one of the first periodicals to highlight Black writers’ literary and political contributions. The magazine was well-known for its portrayals of Black life through short stories, serial novels and critical essays about race and politics.  It also celebrated the social achievements of prestigious Black men and women through photo editorials and society pages. The magazine was produced and distributed by the Colored Co-operative Publishing Company between 1900 and 1909, and marketed to a primarily Black readership. The fact that one-third of its subscribers were white shaped the tone of the published articles, allowing its writers to address issues affecting diverse populations. The Colored American Magazine laid the foundation for Black culture in print, influencing the next generation of Black-owned publications, including The Crisis, Ebony, and Jet magazines.

Hon. Archibald Grimké,  American Ex-consul To Santo Domingo

Photo editorials provide an illustration of noteworthy persons mentioned in published articles.  An example of this design feature are the photo editorials of Archibald Grimké and Madam Perkins.

Archibald Grimké was a lawyer, diplomat, intellectual and activist during the 19th and 20th centuries.  He was one of the first African American graduates from Harvard Law School and served as the American Consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894 to 1898.  Grimké was a renowned writer and orator on the subject of racial equality and actively participated in organizations to promote African American progress.  His noted achievements include serving as the president of the American Negro Academy (1903–1919), a black intellectual organization for the promotion of African American scholarship.  Grimké was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) established in 1909.  He served on the Board of Directors and became the president of the Washington, D.C. chapter in 1913.

Madame Perkins of Boston, Mass
A Soprano Singer of Professional Note

A selection of the photo editorials in the Colored American Magazine spotlight the artistic, cultural and societal contributions of noted women. These photographs are cinematically styled to illustrate their occupation or creative interest through the use of fashionable clothing and props. This type of photo styling resembles design layout in today’s fashion and culture magazines.

Shall The Fifteenth Amendment Be Repealed?   
By Robert W. Carter

The concept of Identity includes an individual’s cultural heritage, but also one’s personal beliefs and point-of-view. In this editorial, Robert W. Carter responds to Bourke Cochran’s statement about the repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment at the Montgomery Race Conference. Cochran believes that giving Black men the right to vote is the cause of racial tensions in the South, but Carter gives a different perspective.

Carter also argues that repealing the Fifteenth Amendment will cause a negative rippling effect upon the lives of Black and naturalized citizens. If the government repeals one amendment, then it is feasible for politicians to reverse the other decisions such as the Thirteenth, granting freedom to enslaved people, and Fourteenth Amendments, making “all persons born or naturalized” citizens of the United States. Carter suggests that the solution to the race problem is to provide education to both races, thus leveling social inequalities and promoting a culture of intelligent thought, civic justice, and comradeship in the South.

The Old Or New Faith.  Which?
(A brief review of the present political situation)
By Charles Winslow Hall

The selection of a political party can demonstrate the civic values we follow as citizens. In this heated editorial, Charles Winslow Hall calls on Black voters to make a choice that will affect the political path of the nation. The election of 1900 was one of the most pivotal of its time. Hall states that the selection of the next president is not a choice of the right man for the job, but the political party whose policies will benefit the country. Hall presents the recent changes in the Republican and Democratic political ideologies. He offers predictions on how life will change in the United States depending on which party wins the election. Therefore, he calls on voters to consider their choice based on the current political situation instead of a party’s previous stance.