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Front Pages, Front LinesMedia and the Fight for Women's Suffrage$
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Linda Steiner, Carolyn Kitch, and Brooke Kroeger

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043109

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043109.001.0001

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Suffrage and the New Negro in the Black Public Sphere

Suffrage and the New Negro in the Black Public Sphere

(p.98) 5 Suffrage and the New Negro in the Black Public Sphere
Front Pages, Front Lines

Jane Rhodes

University of Illinois Press

The era immediately following World War I was tumultuous for African American communities, with its widespread backlash against black American soldiers, urban antiblack violence and riots, and lynching. The black press, which conveyed the communities’ sense of anxiety and grievance, was critical to the formation and maintenance of a radical black counterpublic—a formation that operated outside the mainstream public sphere. While some black publications stayed on the margins of radical politics, this chapter shows that others embraced more militant ideas and strategies. Socialism and the Communist Party held special sway for some African Americans seeking a way out of their social, economic, and political isolation. A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, who founded The Messenger in New York in 1917, supported woman suffrage and promised to help women make the most profitable and desirable use of the ballot. The Messenger’s editors viewed black women’s suffrage as part of a larger political and social transformation that would give the masses a voice and equal opportunity. W. E. B. Du Bois also articulated strong “profeminist” politics in the pages of The Crisis, promoting women’s suffrage as a key element in the quest for black liberation.

Keywords:   black press, The Messenger, The Crisis, Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen

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