The monthly magazine Opportunity gave just that—a
chance to make their voices heard—to the talented black writers
of the Harlem Renaissance.
Created in 1923 by the National Urban League (a group devoted to
empowering African Americans economically and socially), Opportunity
was edited by scholar Charles S. Johnson. In Johnson's deft hands,
Opportunity became a tool for combating racism: During an
era when African Americans routinely struggled to land decent jobs,
Johnson strove to introduce white audiences to the work of gifted
black writers and artists. Expanded social roles and employment opportunities
for African Americans, he reasoned, would follow.
To make sure the mainstream publishing world learned that Opportunity
was knocking, Johnson hosted a lavish dinner at New York City's Civic
Club in 1924. With scholar Alain Locke presiding as master of ceremonies,
the grand affair mixed prominent publishers and magazine editors with
up-and-coming black writers. This epochal event resulted in the publication
of Countee Cullen's poems by Harper's magazine, as well as
a Survey Graphic magazine dedicated to works by the "New
Negro." The Civic Club soirée was just the first of many
award ceremonies that Opportunity would host in its ongoing
celebration of the spectrum of black talent.