"Fire!!" was an
African Americanliterary 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.
"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. [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.]
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." [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.] .
"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". [Drop me off in Harlem. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/faces/thurman_text.html]
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". [Harris, E. (1999). Renaissance men. "Advocate". Retrieved July 11, 2008, from MasterFILE Premier database.] "Fire!!" did receive a positive review from "The Bookman", which applauded the uniqueness and personality shown in the artistic content of the journal. [The Bookman: A Review of Books and Life.(September, 1926-February, 1927).(November 1926).Vol LXIV, (pp 258-259).George H. Doran Company Publishers.] ,
The magazine covered a variety of literary genres, and consists of a short novel, an essay, stories, plays, drawings and illustrations, and poetry: [Negro Periodicals in the United States: Series II 1826-1950.(1970)."Fire!!: Devoted to Younger Negro Artists".Westport, CT: Negro Universities Press.]
"Fire!!" in the media
The story of the rise and fall of "Fire!!" is showcased in the 2004 movie "
Brother to Brother", [Brother to Brother. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0306597/] 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.
The first and 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." [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]
* [http://firepress.com/index.html Fire Press: Publisher of reproductions of Fire!!]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.