When Charles S. Johnson, the editor of Opportunity magazine, presented his most promising black writers to New York society at a grand Civic Club dinner in November 1924, one member of the audience decided their work deserved wider notice. He was Paul Kellogg, the editor of Survey Graphic, a magazine devoted to social work in America. Kellogg approached scholar Alain Locke after the dinner and asked if he'd like to compile a special issue of Survey Graphic that would examine the unfolding Harlem Renaissance.
Locke, committed to promoting the artistic achievements of African Americans as a way to advance the black race, jumped at the chance. The stirring result, entitled "Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro," hit newsstands just four months later.
The issue showcased the best efforts of leading black artists, writers, and thinkers. There were poems by Langston Hughes (notably "I, Too" and "Jazzonia"), stories by Claude McKay ("White House" and "The Tropics in New York"), and a story by civil rights pioneer W. E. B. Du Bois ("The Black Man Brings Gifts"). Jean Toomer contributed excerpts from his 1923 novel Cane, Aaron Douglas came through with some illustrations, and Alain Locke, Charles S. Johnson, and Arthur Schomburg all wrote essays. Gracing the cover was a Weinold Reiss portrait of acclaimed black tenor Roland Hayes.
The special issue more than doubled Survey Graphic's customary readership. Two printings sold out. White patrons such as Joel and Amy Spingarn plumped up sales by buying hundreds of copies and distributing them for free. In November 1925, the magazine's contents were augmented and republished in the form of a hardcover anthology, The New Negro: An Interpretation.