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

The Messenger

1917 – 1928
(Only 1917 - 1925 is presented here)


Introduction

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

“THE MESSENGER IS THE ONLY MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC RADICALISM IN THE WORLD PUBLISHED BY NEGROES

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.

(Signed) THE EDITORS”


A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Own 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 Own 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, becoming a liberal perspective, largely arts and literature magazine. Albeit one extremely well and thoughtfully written.

Those accessing this digital archive can make their own judgments, for we provide here 9 of the 12 issues published in 1924, the year we feel the character of The Messenger changed distinctly. We also present 9 of the 11 issues of The Messenger printed in 1925. 1924 and 1925 issues are absent in our presentation where Google / Hathi Trust presented scans with a large fraction of the pages missing.

These scans presented here are enhanced and in some cases restored from the Google / Hathi Trust scans of the reprint of The Messenger. Damaged cover and other graphic images are repaired. Center two page images that were presented as separate pages with parts missing are here restored.

Google failed to scan pages 561 and 562 of the January 1923 issue, pages 606 and the 12 next pages of the February 1923 issue, and the first (cover) page of the March 1923 issue.

We of Marxists.org plan to restore these pages to this digital archive, when the Covid 19 pandemic is over, and the libraries which hold the hard copy of the volume Google scanned re-open, allowing us to borrow and scan the missing pages.

For those interested in issues of The Messenger beyond 1923, they are presented by Hathi Trust. But be warned... some of the issues presented in that period lack significant numbers of pages, due to more carelessness on the part of Google's scanning, and failure of Hathi Trust to do even minimal quality control checks (such as simple issue page counts) on the scans given them.

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


Information on the unusual volume and issue numbers of The Messenger





1917

November


1918

January

July


1919

March

supplement to March issue

May-June

July

August

September

October

December


1920

February

March

April-May

August

September

October

November

December


1921

March

July

August

September

October

November

December


1922

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December


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

1923

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


After 1923, the character of The Messenger changes substantially, from a far left political journal to a liberal and mostly arts and literature journal. Here are some examples of this from the 1924 issues of The Messenger. Missing from this presentation are those issues where the bulk of their pages were simply left out of the scans done by Google and presented by Hathi Trust.

1924

Vol. 6 No. 1 January

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. 10 October

Vol. 6 No. 11 November

Vol. 6 No. 12 December


1925

Here are nine of the eleven issues of The Messenger published in 1925. They are similar in character to those published in 1924, and provided for your examination and reference. The October-November 1925 issue and the December 1925 issue are not provided here because our current source, Google/Hathi-Trust scans, is seriously defective in presenting those issues, with about 33 pages total missing from those two 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



Last updated on 16 May 2021