Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Verner Mitchell

Committee Member

Ladrica Menson-Furr

Committee Member

Earnestine Jenkins

Committee Member

Terrence Tucker


This dissertation explores the one-issue Fire!! created, edited, and published by Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Bennett, Aaron Douglas, and Richard Bruce Nugent in 1926 - during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. By giving a close examination of the short stories, plays, poems, editorials, and illustrations included in the journal, I examine the editorial and aesthetic choices of the younger generation of artists and their collective effort to broaden the perspectives and representations of African Americans in art and in culture. By publishing a journal outside of the constraints of the race leaders social science journals and outside of the white patrons expectations, these artists were generating texts that conformed to an understanding of culture - more to the proletariat, lower classes, and less to the social uplift mantra of the era. In this journal multiple representations are given from a narrative of an unapologetic and unregenerate prostitute to self-hatred and colorism among African American women, to even the first explicitly homoerotic narrative published by an African American author. The goal of this journal was to burn up the old conventions, escape the strict and narrow creative options of either the pure or the primitive, and create art that reflected the lives these artists new were viable possibilities within African American culture.The works of these authors contained in this journal represent the creative approaches that many of these authors continued even after the height of the movement, and most of these editor-authors even reflect back to the publication of Fire!! in other works produced after the climax of the Harlem Renaissance. For instance, both Thurman and Nugent reflect back to the summer of 1926 in their respective novels Infants in the Spring and Gentlemens Jigger. However, Hughes, Hurston, Douglas, and Bennett do a similar thing with later publications. Each chapter in this study discusses a different author and contributor. My method, a combination of biography and close reading, allows me to examine the journal in ways not often fully discussed in other scholarship. This approach reveals the historical currency and literary consistency of each author. Organized in conjunction with the order of the journal, the chapters of this study tell of the many and often contested versions of modern African American literary production.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest