Learn how publications provided new opportunities for black writers in On the Harlem Newsstand: Vehicles for Many Voices.

 

Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life (est. 1923)

 

 
 
 

 


The Kennedy Center
ARTSEDGE
Marco Polo
This resource was created in March 2003 by ARTSEDGE. All rights reserved.
ARTSEDGE is a project of the Education Department of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
and is a member of the MarcoPolo Partnership

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.


 

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Editor Charles S. Johnson promoted black writers in Opportunity.

Poet Countee Cullen worked as an assistant editor of Opportunity.

Langston Hughes wrote for Opportunity and read his poetry at the first banquet.

Zora Neale Hurston received the most prizes at the first awards dinner.

Artist Aaron Douglas was a main contributor.

Actor Paul Robeson attended the inaugural awards dinner.

Heiress A'Lelia Walker attended the Civic Club dinner.

The Survey Graphic special issue was conceived at the Civic Club dinner.

 
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