- Editors' Note
Issue 29.2 serendipitously brings together three essays that explore intersections between black and white print culture in the United States.
Brian Baaki's "White Crime and the Early African American Press: Elements of Reprinting and Reporting in New York's Freedom's Journal" focuses on the antebellum period and John Russwurm's attempts to "talk back" to assertions of black criminality underscored by the penny press as well as publications such as John B. Skillman's New York Police Reports. While Skillman highlighted and reveled in the criminal behavior of blacks, Russwurm supplied a counternarrative of white criminality in Freedom's Journal for its black audience, thereby creating an imaginative and "lawful space for black citizens" in New York just after the state abolished slavery.
Moving to the post-bellum period, in "Throwing Stones Across the Potomac: The Colored American Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Cultural Politics of National Reunion," Brian Sweeney reconnects Pauline Hopkins's work as editor and author to her efforts to push back against the prevailing embrace of reunionism—the idea that the reunification of the United States following the Civil War and Reconstruction justified the disfranchisement of African Americans and acquiescence to Jim Crow—in the mainstream popular press at the turn of the twentieth century. Sweeney recognizes that though the Atlantic Monthly had been founded in the mid-nineteenth century on principles of abolitionism and staunch support of the newly established Republican Party, by 1900 it had come to support reunionist ideology, publishing essays by Southern apologists and realist fiction that, in following William Dean Howells's dictum to treat the "smiling aspects of life," also papered over the ugly history of slavery. In contrast, Hopkins asserted African American culture, history, and actors as a persistent reminder of the need for the United States to reconcile its past; her melodramatic novel Hagar's Daughter likewise presented a counter to Howellsian realism in reconnecting a past that white Americans were only too willing to forget amid the unresolved concerns of the present.
In "Langston Hughes: Refugee in the Post's America," Jennifer Nolan examines the poet's targeting of the white mainstream press—in the form of one of the nation's most widely circulated magazines, the Saturday Evening Post—in the early 1940s to publicly critique the utter hypocrisy of a nation that would trumpet its embrace of democratic values while unapologetically discriminating against black citizens. In his poems "Goodbye Christ" and "Refugee in America," published in [End Page vii] the Post in two consecutive issues in 1943, Hughes presented an ironic commentary of the naïve paeans to American freedom and democracy characteristic of the articles and stories alongside which they appeared. Nolan argues that Hughes's decision to target the Post as a venue for his work when the magazine was recognized for embracing racist stereotypes was not evidence of Hughes selling out, as others have suggested. Instead, in doing so Hughes was heeding his own call to black writers, issued in his 1942 essay "Negro Writers and the War," to use mainstream periodicals as a way of "forcing democracy to recognize belatedly some of its own failings in regard to the Negro people."
Rounding out the issue, two essay reviews and a stand-alone review consider recent books on nineteenth-century Native American texts and women writers' representations of Native Americans, turn-of-the-century newspaper reporting, and nineteenth-century women journalists.
American Periodicals welcomes contributions from early-career scholars and seasoned veterans alike. Please consider submitting your work, whether as a traditional essay or to an In the Archive or Forum feature. See our website (www.amperiodicals.org) for submission guidelines, and spread the word to colleagues and students. [End Page viii]