MIA: History: USA: Publications: The Messenger (1917-1928)

The Messenger

1917 – 1928

Statement of the Editors of "The Messenger" at the time of its first publication:


It is written in fine style; its matter is logically presented; its interpretations are made calmly and dispassionately – without prejudice in favor of the Negro or against the White Man.

Our aim is to appeal to reason, to lift our pens above the cringing demagogy of the times and above the cheap, peanut politics of the old, reactionary Negro leaders.

Patriotism has no appeal to us; justice has. Party has no weight with us; principle does. Loyalty is meaningless; it depends on what one is loyal to. Prayer is not one of our remedies; it depends on what one is praying for. We consider prayer as nothing more than a fervent wish; consequently the merit and worth of a prayer depend upon what the fervent wish is. Still we never forget that all wishes, desires, hopes – must be realized thru the adoption of sound methods. This requires scientific educations – a knowledge of the means by which the end aimed at may be attained.

Test us on any question. Write us letters for comment. Suggest subjects you desire to have us discuss. THE MESSENGER will take a courageous and sound position without regard to race, creed, color, sex or political party.


Introduction to the digital archive of The Messenger
[Now extensively upgraded as of mid November 2021]

[Also of interest: The Crusader, the other important black American communist periodical in this period.]

A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen founded The Messenger in 1917, after joining the Socialist Party of America. They wished to provide the African American community of the time with a radical left perspective and discussion forum. Their perspective differed from that of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, whom they saw as part of the older generation. The Messenger opposed World War I, and with it wartime conscription of African Americans. It supported armed self defense against lynching. It considered labor exploitation to be central to racism. It supported the Bolshevik Revolution, When in June of 1919 the left wing of the Socialist Party was expelled/left the SP to become eventually the Communist Party USA, The Messenger remained loyal to the Socialist Party.

Randolf and Owen called themselves the "New Crowd Negroes".

The US Justice Department of the time claimed The Messenger to be "the most most able and the most dangerous publications of its time."

Over time, the focus and character of the publication shifted. Randolph and Owen after 1920 began to back off from advancing socialism, and moved more toward union news and artistic commentary.

In 1923 Owen left the publication, and Theophilis Lewis took over editing control. By the time of the January 1924 issue, The Messenger had lost virtually all of its radical content, acquiring a liberal, reformist perspective, for the most part. It increasingly celebrated black capitalism. It also became in part an arts and literature magazine. As such, it played a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance.

The Messenger ... especially in its 1926 issues... was heavily involved in covering and promoting the efforts by the Brotherhood of Pullman Porters to organize and get recognized as a union Every 1926 issue carried both full page cartoons and several articles relating to this struggle. This struggle ... which began in 1925 and resulted in the Brotherhood of Pullman Workers finally becoming officially recognized as the voice of the Pullman Workers in 1937, was led by A. Phillip Randolph, founder and editor of The Messenger

This digital archive, since a major upgrade of it finished in mid November of 2021, includes in the years 1921, 1922, 1926, 1927, and 1928 images from the 1969 Negro Universities Press reprint of The Messenger, every page scanned by the Riazanov Library digital archive project. In the years 1917-1920, and for 1923, 1924, and 1925 we used scans made by Google for Hathi Trust, purging these of their ugly watermarks, but more significantly restoring dozens of pages that Google and Hathi Trust just failed to scan to the 1923, 1924, and 1925 issues, which I scanned from the same physical reprint volume (in the collection of U C Berkeley) that Google scanned. Additionally, I re-scanned from that reprint and provide here much higher resolution, restored images of graphic art than that found in the Google / Hathi Trust presentation of The Messenger, especially including covers, and cartoons. Specifically, where Google scanned graphic art at 300 dpi, I scanned it at 600 or at 1200 dpi. Also, where in the reprint a graphic image spanning two facing pages was separated by a gap and the gutter of the reprint book, I restored the image to being a single continuous page, as the artist originally drew it. Google / Hathi Trust presented such material as two separate pages, and for which they also often left out or presented as distorted by the curves of the gutter of the book some of the material in the middle of the artwork. There are a few instances where I applied digital restoration to remove scratches and creases in photographs appearing in the reprint, in some of the cover photos.

This presentation is essentially a complete presentation of The Messenger from its first to last issue, flawed only by the fact that in the reprint some issues were missing their back cover page. And by the fact I found one issue of The Messenger in the U C Berkeley reprint vandalized by having had one physical page in the middle torn out.

Martin H. Goodman MD
Riazanov Library
San Pablo, CA November 2021

Information on the unusual volume and issue numbers of The Messenger

A series of collections of cartoons for various issues of The Messenger:
  • “Aframerican” Snapshots 1927
  • “Christianity and the Negros” 1927
  • Madam C.J.Walker advertisements & article
  • Compendium of all Pullman Strike Cartoons 1925-1927
  • restored stitched art

  • 1917







    supplement to March issue
















    All the covers for the 1917-1920 issues






















    At this point numbering of issues... by volume and issue number... becomes rational, so we will include such in the listings.


    Vol. 5 No. 1 January

    Vol. 5 No. 2 February

    Vol. 5 No. 3 March

    Vol. 5 No. 4 April

    Vol. 5 No. 5 May

    Vol. 5 No. 6 June

    Vol. 5 No. 7 July

    Vol. 5 No. 8 August

    Vol. 5 No. 9 September

    Vol. 5 No. 10 October

    Vol. 5 No. 11 November

    Vol. 5 No. 12 December

    Beginning in 1923, and even more so afer 1923, the character of The Messenger changes substantially, from a far left political journal to a liberal, reformist, and in large part arts and literature journal, which played a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance. It began to celebrate black American capitalism. It also became in late 1925 and very much so in 1926 and 1927 the voice of A. Phillip Randolf leading the efforts by the Pullman Porters to organize a recognized union.


    Vol. 6 No. 1 January

    Vol. 6, No. 2 February

    Vol. 6, No. 3, March

    Vol. 6 No. 4 April

    Vol. 6 No. 5 May

    Vol. 6 No. 7 June

    Vol. 6 No. 7 July

    Vol. 6 No. 8 August

    Vol. 6, No. 9 September

    Vol. 6 No. 10 October

    Vol. 6 No. 11 November

    Vol. 6 No. 12 December

    All the covers for the 1924 issues


    Vol. 7, No. 1, January 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 2, February 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 3, March 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 4, April 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 5, May 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 6, June 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 7, July 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 8, August 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 9, September 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 10, October-November 1925

    Vol. 7, No. 11, December 1925

    All the covers for the 1925 issues

    1925 Pullman Strike Cartoons


    Vol. 8, No. 1, January 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 2, February 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 3, March 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 4, April 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 5, May 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 6, June 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 7, July 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 8, August 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 9, September 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 10, October 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 11, November 1926

    Vol. 8, No. 12, December 1926

    All the covers for the 1926 issues

    Pullman Strike cartoons from the 1926 issues


    Vol. 9, No. 1, January 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 2, February 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 3, March 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 4, April 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 5, May 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 6, June 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 7, July 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 8, August 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 9, September 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 10, October 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 11, November 1927

    Vol. 9, No. 12, December 1927

    All the covers for the 1927 issues

    Pullman Strike cartoons from the 1927 issues


    Vol. 10, No. 1, January 1928

    Vol. 10, No. 2, February 1928

    Vol. 10, No. 3, March 1928

    Vol. 10, No. 4, April 1928

    Vol. 10, No. 5, May-June 1928 [final issue]

    All the covers for the 1928 issues

    Last updated on 11 February 2024