Each day when I come into work at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, I pass the introduction of the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection, and my favorite part of the exhibit: reproductions of covers of The Crisis.
The Crisis, which still exists today in web form, is the official publication of the NAACP. It was founded in 1910 under the editorship of W.E.B. Du Bois. In its over 100 years of existence, it has chronicled the life, time and struggles of African Americans and other people of color. While fiercely “speaking truth to power” (their tagline), The Crisis has also lifted up the accomplishments of African Americans and opened the way for many African American literary greats to put their work in front of a larger audience. Langston Hughes, for example, was published in the pages of The Crisis early in his career.
So why does this speak to me?
It would be easy for an entity such as The Crisis to focus only on the negative – and rightly so. In speaking truth to power, lifting up the crimes and wrongs done against African Americans and other people of color, the focus could rest solely on the negative without anyone lifting an eyebrow.
But The Crisis never did that. Yes, they told those stories and lifted up the wrongs being done against people of color, but they also held up the hopeful stories – those of education and literature and music and the accomplishments of the same people who were being held down by society at large.
The story could have been one of tragedy, but they also celebrated the hope.
I recognize that mission. I see it every day.
The story of the Freedom Center could have been one of tragedy, but we also celebrate the hope found within the courage, cooperation and perseverance of those who fought for freedom – and those who continue the fight today.
Even in the darkest of nights, a light does shine. Fortunately, The Crisis and the Freedom Center continue to shine that light for all.
Director of Development Operations
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center