The Voice of the Negro
Date of Publication:
1904 (1:1) – 1907 (4:10)
Place(s) of Publication:
Atlanta, Georgia (Jan. 1904 – July 1906)
Chicago, Illinois (Aug. 1906 – Oct. 1907)
Frequency of Publication:
J.L. Nichols and Company (Jan. 1904 – Apr. 1904)
Hertel, Jenkins, and Company (May 1904 – July 1906)
Voice Publishing Company (Aug. 1906 – Oct. 1907)
4 v. in 3. ill. 26 cm
Jesse Max Barber
Emmet Jay Scott (Editorial Contributor)
Libraries with Original Issues:
Johnson C. Smith, New York, Negro University Presses, 1969. Wake Forest University, Duke University, Georgia State University, University of Georgia, University of Virginia
The Voice of the Negro was founded in January 1904, the first journal edited by African Americans for a general audience of readers (Walter 369). The four leading editors of the little magazine – John Wesley Edward Bowen, Emmett J. Scott, Booker T. Washington, and Jesse Max Barber – began this magazine in Atlanta, Georgia, the city with the largest number of black institutes at the time, in order to foster the black literary and political voice in the “New South” (369). J Max Barber, as he was formally known, soon took the reins of the magazine’s editing and produced what seemed to be a “split-personality” magazine (Harlan 47): African American contributors either accommodated white influence and policy on race issues, or radically supported an assertive Negro voice (371). The magazine published essays on education and race politics at state, national, and international levels (370). The Voice of the Negro also addressed issues such as the term “Negro,” black marginalization, and women’s rights through the mediums of poetry, essays, and short stories (45).
Over time, J Max Barber’s editing grew more passionate and radical, which caused contention between him and other black writers in the area. His commitment to Negro rights erupted in controversy following an anonymous letter he wrote to a local newspaper setting the record straight about a massacre of black Atlantas by whites in 1906 (374). Although his account was factually accurate, such historical truth-telling was unacceptable to white audiences. When he was discovered as the author, Barber had to flee town to Chicago. There, he attempted to start the magazine again in October 1906 rebranding it as The Voice (374). Barber lost financial support following his relocation, his publisher Hertel and Johnson folded, and the magazine ceased publication the following year (56). Publication records indicated that the magazine ended with 12,000 subscribers (46). Overall, The Voice of the Negro attempted to elevate the Negro race in the south, in the hopes of giving future generations of African Americans a voice in American and global affairs (370).
The Voice of the Negro published their manifesto in the January 1904 edition at the start of the magazine’s publication:
“The Voice of the Negro for 1904 will keep you posted on Current History, Educational Improvements, Art, Science, Race Issues, Sociological Movements and Religion. It is the herald of the Dawn of the Day. It is the first magazine ever edited in the South by Colored Men. It will prove to be a necessity in the cultured colored homes and a source of information on Negro inspirations and aspirations in the white homes” (Voice of the Negro 1:1).
“1904 will be a year of great things. The country is becoming altruistic and the Negro is emerging from his age of Fire and Blood. We shall study carefully the trends of the times…Our pictures and illustrations will be very interesting. Sparks from Editor J.W.E Bowen’s pen will illuminate many a pessimistic home” (Voice of the Negro 1:1).
John Wesley Edwards Bowen (Dec. 3, 1855 – Jul. 20, 1933)
Editor: Jan. 1904 – Aug. 1906
John Wesley Edwards Bowen was born in New Orleans in 1855 to former slaves in New Orleans. Bowen’s father Edward purchased his wife and son out of slavery in 1858. To ensure a better future for their son, the Bowens secured him the finest education. He received his undergraduate degree from New Orleans University, a bachelor’s degree from the School of Theology at Boston University, and doctorate degree from Boston University (the second African American to do so). Bowen led a life of teaching starting at Central Tennessee College (1878-82) then to Gammon Theological Seminary (’93-’32) where he eventually became president in 1910. While teaching, and before his years at Gammon, Bowen served as pastor of Centennial Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore (Bowen, J.W.E [1855-1933]). His value for African American education, faith, and liberation of his race shaped his contributions and edits to the Voice of The Negro journal. Bowen remained a social activist especially in the church when he published An Appeal for Negro Bishops, But No Separation in 1912 (Bowen, J.W.E [1855-1933]).
Jesse Max Barber ( July 5, 1878 – Sept. 20, 1949)
Editor: Jan. 1904 – Oct. 1907
Born in South Carolina, J. Max Barber worked in his early years – rather fittingly – as a barber. In pursuing a better life through education, Barber went on to study at the Virginia Union University in Richmond where his literary life commenced. There he became the student editor of the University Journal and president of Literary Society. After graduating in 1903 he assumed the position of editor on The Voice of the Negro in 1904 and shaped the journal into a radical and progressive literary form. Abby Johnson, in her book Propaganda and Aesthetics, provides Barber’s vision for the Voice of the Negro: “We want it to be more than a mere magazine. We expect of it current and sociological history so accurately given and so vividly portrayed that it will become a kind of documentation for the coming generations” (Johnson, 1).
Barber continued to support civil rights through his membership in the Niagara Movement and the NAACP. After The Voice of the Negro folded, Barber briefly edited for the Chicago Conservator. He turned to a career in dentistry while still remaining active in the social rights for African Americans. From 1919 to 1921 Barber served as president for the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP and then became president of the John Brown Memorial Association. He published regularly in Abbott’s Monthly from 1930 to 1933 ( Barber, J. Max [1878-1949]).
John H. Adams
Azalia E. Martin
“Doing things at Tuskegee Institute”
“Southern Negro in Northern University”
Benjamin Griffith Brawley
“The Dawn -Poem”
Nannie H. Burroughs
“Not Color but Character”
James D. Corrothers
“The Peace of God”
“Debit and Credit – The American Negro in Account with the year of grace nineteen hundred and four”
“The Beginning of Slavery”
“Slavery in Greece and Rome”
“The Beginning of Emancipation”
Silas X. Floyd
“Story: She Came at Christmas”
“The tried and the true”
T. Thomas Fortune
“The Voteless Citizen”
“The National Association of Teachers of Colored Youths”
“The National Negro Business League”
Mrs. Josephine B. Bruce
“The Farmer and the City Folk”
“Roosevelt and the Negro”
“An Estimate of Frederick Douglass”
“The Industrial Problem of the United States and the Negro’s Relation To It”
“Who Invented the Cotton Gin? Did a negro do the work and Eli Whitney get all the credit?”
“The Negro and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition”
“Roosevelt – The Man, The Patriot, The Statesman”
“The Emancipation of the Negro”
Emmett J. Scott
“Tuskegee Negro Conferences”
“The Louisiana Purchase Exposition”
Mrs. Mary Church Terrell
“The Berlin International Congress of Women”
“Christmas at the White House”
“Atoms are complex bodies”
Fannie Barrier Williams
“The Smaller Economies”
“The Women’s Part in a Man’s Business”
“The Timely Message of the Simple Life”
Mrs. Josephine Silone Yates
“The Equipment of the Teacher”
“The National Association of Colored Women”
“Thought Power in Education”
Blue, Christopher T. “Barber, J. Max (1878-1949) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” Barber, J. Max (1878-1949) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
Bowen, J.W.E; Barber J. Max. Voice of the Negro: The Black Experience in America- Negro Periodicals in the United States, 1840- 1960. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969. Print.
“Bowen, J. W. E. (1885-1933) – Educator, Minister, Writer, Lecturer, Chronology, Provides Shelter during Atlanta Riot.” Bowen, J. W. E.(1885-1933). N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
Daniel, Walter C. Black Journals of the United States. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982. Print.
Harlan, Louis R. “Booker T. Washington and the Voice of the Negro, 1904-1907.” Journal of Southern History. February (1979): 45-62. Print.
Johnson, Abby. Propaganda and aesthetics : the literary politics of African-American magazines in the twentieth century.Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, 1991. Print.
Johnson, Charles S. “Rise of the Negro Magazine.” Journal of Negro History. October (1977): 325-38. Web.