In 1910, a year after he cofounded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, W. E. B. Du Bois launched the organization’s influential monthly magazine, The Crisis. Its goal was to reveal “the danger of race prejudice” in order to motivate black activism. Photographs were vital in the publication, a visual approach that was popular with readers.

Du Bois alternated hard-hitting articles and editorials about racism with stories about black accomplishment. Pictures served as evidence of the gravity of racism and segregation: gruesome shots of violence against black people were often published. But pictures were also used to celebrate or commemorate, as did the photographic portraits that accompanied profiles or obituaries. The interaction between negative and positive imagery was crucial to the magazine’s impact, allowing it to document racial prejudice and at the same time demonstrate, by example, the ability of black people to triumph over it.

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Portrait of W. E. B. Du Bois, 1950
Portrait of W. E. B. Du Bois, 1950
Lotte Jacobi
Portrait of W. E. B. Du Bois, 1950
Gelatin silver print
11 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.
Courtesy Lotte Jacobi Collection, University of New Hampshire Photography Collections. Loan from Photography Collections, University of Maryland, Baltimore County