blackbirdonline journalSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1

A White Man’s Party: Selections from The Crisis at the Century Mark
M.A. Keller


Walter F. White
   Election Day in Florida

   [When the SUFFRAGE law]

M.G. Allison
   The Lynching Industry

The Crisis
   The Vote [. . . a white man’s party]
   The Klu Klux Menace
   NAACP [Tulsa Riots]
   It Is to Laugh


In the news for the year: disenfranchisment of Black voters in the previous election cycle; visible evidence of white-on-Black violence and overtly visible white supremicists groups as well, lynchings in Georgia, and across the country—though concentrated in the South—citizens taking their sense of "the law" into their own hands; mixed-race couples frowned upon; the Republican party as a party of white men.

The year in question is 1921.

Almost as jarring as news of the present is recognizing that the country remains mired, one hundred years on, in ignorance and injustice, seeing clearly the historical roots of present discord and violence, witnessing how much the country yet struggles, despite any given changes, with issues of race, agency, and the distribution of power.

In 1921, there are other echoes to the present: violence in Haiti, accounts of the press reporting crime by whites differently from crimes by individuals of color, and hearings where southern congressman, members of the house committee on the cenus, show overt racial bias and condecension to NAACP representatives in public questioning—just to mention a few. This was also the year of The New York World’s twenty-one article exposé of the Ku Klux Klan and the year where the NAACP was still lobbying for the passage of federal anti-lynching legislation, first introduced in 1918. At this writing in 2021, lynching is still not a federal crime in the United States.

It should be said as well that The Crisis also reported positive news, accounts of successes for Black individuals, efforts, and businesses, as well as poems and short stories in its pages. Full issues of the journal can be found at the Modernist Journals Project for those interested in further exploration.

Of the selections republished here, only three have bylines: Walter F. White, a Black writer, journalist, investigator and later head of the NAACP, writes about the 1920 election day in Florida and the obstacles to Black voters; Anise (Anna Louise Strong)—her 1920s era poetry said by scholar Cary Nelson, to “represent a key moment in the development of modernism and its extension to a working class audience”—speaks to suffrage, gender, and race in a political poem that one can imagine being penned for oral performance; M.G. Allison, an assistant editor at The Crisis, gives us a detailed catalogue of lynchings for the previous year, including her lynching map of the state of Georgia, and statistics for lynchings between 1885 and 1920. The tone of Allison’s piece, factual and detatched lists and data, makes the accounting all the more chilling. (In 1922 she would go on to publish a national lynching map.)

In addition, we include an unattributed commentary from The Crisis on the Ku Klux Klan and pro-Klan legislators, the first report in The Crisis responding to the burning of a Black business and homes in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and two pieces that reference our own Richmond, Virginia, one on the racial structure of the Republican party, one an account of a lecturer at the Medical College of Virginia speaking approvingly (and apparently shockingly) of mixed-race relationships.  bug

return to top