This essay examines how the editorial staff of the Crisis positioned readers as collaborators and literary activists. Looking at letters to the editor, I argue that readers helped reevaluate representations of blackness in American literary taste. These letters bridge past, present, and future issues of the magazine and, therefore, evoke a temporality that exceeds the critical capacities of close reading. To address how editors, readers, and authors responded to each other over time, I combine close reading with topic modeling, a method of computational text analysis. This mixed methodology shows how readers participated in the magazine’s cultural campaign against racism by calling for socially progressive depictions of blackness.

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