Ebony and Topaz: A Collecteana



Ebony and Topaz: A Collecteana

This edition

"Ebony and Topaz: A Collecteana" . Ed. Charles S. Johnson. New York: Opportunity / National Urban League, 1927.

Other editions, reprints, and translations

• Repr. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries, 1971. 164 pp.

• Repr. in "The Politics and Aesthetics of 'New Negro' Literature," ed. Cary D. Wintz. New York: Routledge, 1996. 1-163. [Google Books limited preview]

Table of contents

(Page numbers are from the reprint of the volume in "The Politics and Aesthetics of 'New Negro' Literature" [1996])

L. Hollingsworth Wood / Foreword
Charles S. Johnson / Introduction (11)
• Arthur Huff Fauset / Jumby (story) (15)
• Paul Green / On the Road One Day, Lord (drama) (25)
• Mae V. Cowdery / Dusk (poem) (26)
• Jessie Fauset / Divine Afflatus (poem) (27)
• John Matheus / General Drums (story) (29)
• Julia Peterkin / Gullah (35)
• Georgia Douglas Johnson / Requiem (poem) (35)
• Sterling A. Brown / Foreclosure (poem) (36)
• Langston Hughes / Dreamer (poem) (36)
• E. Merrill Root / The Dunes (poem) (36)
• Nathan Ben Young / Eighteenth Street: An Anthology in Color (37)
• Guy B. Johnson / John Henry: A Negro Legend (47)
• Blanche Taylor Dickinson / Things Said When He Was Gone (poem) (51)
• Alice Dunbar Nelson / April Is on the Way (poem) (52)
• Zora Neale Hurston / The First One: A Play in One Act (53)
• Donald Jeffrey Hayes / This Place (poem) (57)
• Countee Cullen / Three Poems (poems) (58)
• Dorothy Scarborough / New Light on an Old Song (59)
• Edna Worthley Underwood / La Perla Negra (60)
• Jose M. Salaverria / The Negro of the Jazz Band (trans. by Dorothy Peterson) (63)
• Arna Bontemps / Idolatry (poem) (66)
• Angelina W. Grimke / To Clarissa Scott Delany (poem) (67)
• Arthur A. Schomburg / Juan Latino, Magister Latinus (69)
• Jonathan H. Brooks / And One Shall Live in Two (poem) (72)
• Phillis Wheatley / A Poem (poem) (78)
• Elizabeth Barrett Browning / The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point (78)
• Ellsworth Faris / The Natural History of Race Prejudice (89)
• Paul Laurence Dunbar / Facsimiles of his original manuscripts (95)
• Anne Spencer / Sybil Warns Her Sister (poem) (94)
• Eugene Kinckle Jones / Some Observations on the American Race Problem (96)
• Frank Horne / Arabesque (poem) (99)
• T. Arnold Hill / Phantom Color Line (100)
• E. B. Reuter / The Changing Status of the Mulatto (107)
• William Pickens / Suffrage (111)
• Lois Augustus Cuglar / Consecration (poem) (114)
• Fisk University students / Undergraduate verse (poems) (115)
• Alain Locke / Our Little Renaissance (117)
• Arna Bontemps / My Heart Has Known Its Winter (118)
• E. Franklin Frazier / Racial Self-Expression (119)
• George S. Schuyler / Our Greatest Gift to America (122)
• Lewis Alexander / Effigy (poem) (124)
• Theophilus Lewis / The Negro Actor's Deficit (125)
• Edward S. Silvera / Two Poems (poems ) (127)
• W. P. Dabney / Duncanson (128)
• Frank Horne / Youth (poem) (129)
• Abram Harris / The Prospects of [the] Black Bourgeoisie (131)
• George Chester Morse / To a Young Poet (poem) (134)
• Students from Shaw University, Lincoln University, Tougaloo College, Howard University / A Page of Undergraduate Verse (poems) (135)
• John P. Davis / Verisimilitude (story) (137)
• Ira DeA. Reid / Mrs. Bailey Pays the Rent (144)
• Helene Johnson / A Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem (poem) (148)
• Gwendolyn Bennett / Tokens (story) (149)
• Students of Tougaloo College, Cleveland College of Western Reserve University / A Page of Undergraduate Verse (poems) (151)
• Arna Bontemps / The Return (poem) (153)
• Brenda Ray Moryck / I (154)
• Allison Davis / A Glorious Company (156)
• Jonathan H. Brooks / A Student I Know (poem) (157)
• Joseph Maree Andrew / And I Passed By (158)
Who's Who (163)

About the anthology

• Like Alain Locke's "The New Negro" (1925), this anthology includes essays, poetry, fiction, and drama, and it includes items by a few white contributors alongside the many items by black contributors.
• The phrase "ebony and topaz" had been used as a caption for an image in "The Strand" vol. 1, issue 1 (Jan. 1891): 105 (illustration to "The Two Genies: A Story for Children; from the French of Voltaire") [see image]. Voltaire's story had earlier been translated as "Ebony and Topaz" and included in both the "Boston Lyceum" vol. 2 (Nov. 1827), 238-45 (after President John Quincy Adams was reported to have given "Ebony and Topaz" as a toast in Baltimore in 1827), and in "The Young Man's Offering: Comprising Prose and Poetical Writings of the Most Eminent Authors" (1850), 146-61.
Here follows a gloss on Voltaire's story (from "The Letters and Times of the Tylers" vol. 1, 1884, p. 392): "There are, according to [this story], two genii who always attend upon us--the one good, the other evil. The first Voltaire calls Topaz; the last Ebony. The first is evermore resisting the last. The last is constantly tempting us from the path of virtue and morality, and in order to do so, spreads before us the most captivating illusions. The first whispers in our ears that vice can never give any real lasting pleasure, but is followed by certain destruction. Ebony speaks the language of the passions, Topaz that of reason. Listen to Ebony, and you will be ruined; to Topaz, and you will not fail to be happy and respected. The Scriptures represent these genii under the names of 'Satan' and 'eternal goodness'. They both mean the same thing, and teach us to restrain our tempers and dispositions, always asking ourselves before we commit any action, is it right, is it proper, is it virtuous, is it honorable? This I fondly hope my children will do through life, and Ebony, or the spirit of darkness, will exercise no power over them."
(Clearly, Johnson is not invoking this earlier discourse about Ebony and Topaz, but the earlier discourse illustrates the kinds of associations gathered about "Ebony" and what Johnson's volume had to work against.)

Reviews and notices of anthology

• "Saturday Review of Literature" 3 March 1928: 656: "Mr. Johnson is the editor of "Opportunity, A Journal of Negro Life", a magazine keeping abreast of the latest achievements by negroes in literature, art, and music. His is a consistently interesting and inspiring periodical. In 'Ebony and Topaz' he has collected, chiefly from the files of "Opportunity", certain stories, sketches, essays, translations, pictures, and poetry, mainly the work of his race. The cover and a number of the illustrations of this paper-bound volume are by Charles Cullen and Aaron Douglas, both distinguished negro draughtsmen with unusual gifts. Such poets as Countée Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Arna Bontemps are represented. Prose by Arthur Huff Fauset and Gwendolyn Bennett, with Alain Locke's brief appraisal of the negro renaissance in art, should be mentioned also.  White writers on the negro such as Paul Green, Julia Peterkin, Professor Ellsworth Faris, and others contribute interstingly. A rare poem on 'the Runaway Slave,' by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is reproduced; two hitherto unpublished poems by Phyllis Wheatley, the first, eighteenth-century ngero poet; facsimiles of original manuscripts by Paul Laurence Dunbar; and there is comment upon Robert S. Duncanson, the phenomenal colored American painter who established his reputation years before the Civil War. This is an indication of the scope and variety of the volume's contents.
"Mr. Alain Locke seems to us to set forth extremely well the nature of the present phase of artistic expression through which the negro is passing, well illustrated in some of the contents of this book. Here are his words:
[']There was a time when the only way out of sentimental partisanship was through a stridently self-conscious realism. That attitude stripped the spiritual bloom from the work of the Negro writer; gave him a studied and self-conscious detachment. It was only yesterday that we had to preach objectivity to the race artist to cure the pathetic fallacies of bathos and didactic approach. We are just beginning perhaps to shake off the artifices of that relatively early stage; so to speak the Umbrian stifness is still upon us and he Florentine ease and urbanity looms just ahead. It is a fiction that the black man has until recently been naive: in American life he has been painfully self-conscious for generations—and is only now beginning to recapture the naïveté he once originally had.[']" (full text of review).
• Park, Robert E. Review of "Ebony and Topaz." "American Journal of Sociology" 33.6 (May 1928): 994.
"'Ebony and Topaz' is a sumptuous volume, in which the editor, Charles Johnson, has brought together a wide range of papers, including poetry, personal documents, and occasional papers on the Negro and race problems. One of the most notable of these occasional papers is that by Profesor Ellsworth Faris. It is undoubtedly the most actue analysis of the phenomenon of race prejudice that has been written in English" (994) (full text of review).

Commentary on anthology

• Goeser, Caroline. "The Case of Ebony and Topaz: Racial and Sexual Hybridity in Harlem Renaissance Illustrations." American Periodicals 15.1 (2005): 86-111.

• Goeser, Caroline. "Black and Tan: Racial and Sexual Crossings in "Ebony and Topaz"." "Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches". Ed. Suzanne W. Churchill and Adam McKible. London: Routledge, 2016. Chapter 9.

• In his 1996 reprint of the anthology, Cary D. Wintz remarks that the editor of "Ebony and Topaz," Charles S. Johnson "was a University of Chicago-educated sociologist who came to New York in 1921 to take the position of director of research and investigations for the Urban League. For slightly more than five years, beginning in 1923, he edited the Urban League's monthly magazine, 'Opportunity.' Like James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, and to a lesser degree, W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson used his position to promote African American literature. He opened the pages of 'Opportunity' to young writers and sponsored the 'Opportunity' literary contests. In 1927, under his direction, the Urban League published 'Ebony and Topaz,' a collection similar to 'The New Negro,' in which he outlined his views on African American literature. Johnson believed that literature would promote interracial communication and help blacks contend with the social issues that they confronted as a result of the black migration to Northern cities" (xiii).

See also

• 1928 saw the organization of the "Ebony and Topaz Little Theater Players" in Los Angeles: the group took their name from Johnson's anthology. Their first play was to be "Black Alkali" by George S. Grant, "a story of negro life in California, and according to the author, is typically negroid, but not a dialect play nor a propaganda play, which will be a distinct departure from the other negro drama offered to the public in the past few years. . . . The people directly responsible for this new venture are Charles S. Johnson, collector of negro plays and poetry; George S. Grant, writer and poet, and Ruth Skeen, who has been connected with little theater movements in various parts of the United States. . . . The officers of the Ebony and Topaz Players constitute some of the most intellectual and artistic members of the negro colony in Los Angeles. The president is Anita Grant and the vice president Ruth Skeen" (Madeline Blackmore. "Ebony and Topaz Players Organize." "Daily News" April 28, 1928. UMass, Amherst.
• O'Hara, Catherine. "Ebony and Topaz." "Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance." Ed. Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman. Vol. 1, A-J. New York: Routledge, 2004. 326-27.

Cited in

• Lash 1946: 723.
• Kinnamon 1997: 465.

Item Number


Item sets

Linked resources

Filter by property

Title Alternate label Class
Afro-American Women Writers, 1746-1933: An Anthology and Critical Guide About the anthology Bibliographic Resource