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Fire!! was an African American literary magazine published in 1926 during the Harlem Renaissance. The publication was started by Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, John P. Davis, Richard Bruce Nugent, Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes.

History

Fire!! was conceived with the notion of expressing the Black experience during the Harlem Renaissance in a modern and realistic fashion, using literature as a vehicle of enlightenment. The authors of this magazine wanted an arena to express the changing attitudes of younger African Americans and used Fire!! to facilitate the exploration of issues in the Black community that were not in the forefront of mainstream African American society such as homosexuality, bisexuality, interracial relationships, promiscuity, prostitution, and color prejudice within the Black community itself. [1]

The publication was so named, according to Langston Hughes, "to burn up a lot of the old, dead conventional Negro-white ideas of the past ... into a realization of the existence of the younger Negro writers and artists, and provide us with an outlet for publication not available in the limited pages of the small Negro magazines then existing."[2].

Public criticism

Fire!! was plagued by debt and encountered poor sales. It was not well received by the Black public because some felt that the journal did not exemplify the sophisticated self-image that Blacks of that era were trying to portray. The magazine was found offensive for many reasons and it was denounced by Black leaders such as the Talented Tenth, "who viewed the effort as decadent and vulgar".[3]

These groups felt that the content relating to prostitution and homosexuality was degrading. They thought it was a throw-back to old stereotypes in that it contained slang and language in the southern vernacular. They also felt its contents were undignified and reflected poorly on the Black race.

The magazine received many poor critical reviews. For example, the critic at the Baltimore Afro-American wrote that he "just tossed the first issue of Fire!! into the fire".[4] Fire!! did receive a positive review from The Bookman, which applauded the uniqueness and personality shown in the artistic content of the journal.[5],

Features

The magazine covered a variety of literary genres, and consists of a short novel, an essay, stories, plays, drawings and illustrations, and poetry:[6]

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover Designs.................................................................................................Aaron Douglas
Foreword
Drawing...........................................................................................................Richard Bruce
Cordelia The Crude, A Harlem Sketch................................................................Wallace Thurman
Color Struck, A Play in Four Scenes..................................................................Zora Neale Hurston
Flame From The Dark Tower.............................................................................A Section of Poetry

                                        Countee Cullen                 Helene Johnson

                                        Edward Silvera                  Waring Cuney

                                        Langston Hughes              Arna Bontemps

                                                            Lewis Alexander

Drawing..........................................................................................................Richard Bruce
Wedding Day, A Story.....................................................................................Gwendolyn Bennett
Three Drawings...............................................................................................Aaron Douglas
Smoke, Lilies And Jade, A Novel, Part I...........................................................Richard Bruce
Sweat, A Story................................................................................................Zora Neale Hurston
Intelligentsia, An Essay...................................................................................Arthur Huff Fauset
Fire Burns, Editorial Comment..........................................................................Wallace Thurman
Incidental Art Decorations................................................................................Aaron Douglas

Fire!! in the media

The story of the rise and fall of Fire!! is showcased in the 2004 movie Brother to Brother,[7] which focuses on the life of a young gay African American college student named Perry Williams. Perry befriends an elderly gay African American named Bruce Nugent. Perry learns that Bruce Nugent was a writer and co-founder of Fire!!, and that he was associated with other notable writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance.

Literary contribution

The only issue of Fire!! was published in 1926. Although this magazine had only one issue, “this single issue of Fire!! is considered an event of historical importance."[8]

References

  1. ^ Johnson, A.& Johnson, R.(1979).Propoganda and aesthetics: The literary politics of Afro-American magazines in the twentieth century (pp.80-81). Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press.
  2. ^ Samuels, W.(2000).From the wild, wild west to Harlem's literary salons. Black Issues Book Review, 2(5), 14. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from Academic Search Elite database.
  3. ^ Drop me off in Harlem. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/faces/thurman_text.html
  4. ^ Harris, E. (1999). Renaissance men. Advocate. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from MasterFILE Premier database.
  5. ^ The Bookman: A Review of Books and Life.(September, 1926-February, 1927).(November 1926).Vol LXIV, (pp 258-259).George H. Doran Company Publishers.
  6. ^ Negro Periodicals in the United States: Series II 1826-1950.(1970).Fire!!: Devoted to Younger Negro Artists.Westport, CT: Negro Universities Press.
  7. ^ Brother to Brother. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0306597/
  8. ^ Reuben,P. "Chapter 9: Wallace Thurman " PAL: Perspectives in American Literature: A research and reference guide.Retrieved July 10, 2008, from http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap9/thurman.html

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