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The VCFA MFA in Graphic Design Program Blog

A Wounded Fire: Queerness in Black Publications from the Harlem Renaissance with Silas Munro

August 22, 2020

A special BIPOC Design History talk by VCFA faculty member Silas Munro hosted by the HBO interactive design team on August 24th!

Event details:
Monday, August 24th at 6:00pm EST/3:00pm PST
Sign up here:

About the event:
In 1925, Alain LeRoy Locke was asked to be guest editor of an issue of Survey Graphic, the richly designed periodical covering sociological and political issues of the day. The issue, titled “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro”, was Locke’s first publication wherein he connected an emerging generation of young black writers, poets, and artists, to what would be known as the Harlem Renaissance. The infamous issue became the basis for the seminal 1925 anthology The New Negro, which marked a shift from a focus on Black bodies to Black consciousness and Black thought.

The following year, a collective of young, black, and some queer artists would write, design, and self-publish FIRE!!, a publication devoted to younger Negro artists. FIRE!! was conceived by Langston Hughes and Bruce Nugent, both of who had work featured in The New Negro. They enlisted Wallace Thurman to edit the publication, and commissioned other black artists to contribute to its pages. The magazine’s varied content contained diverse genres, including essay, design, illustration, plays, and poetry. Tragically, the headquarters of FIRE!! burned down after the completion of the first issue, but not before its content made equally fiery controversy.

More about Silas:
Silas Munro is a partner of Polymode. His studio has collaborated with clients in the cultural sphere including Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, MoMA, and The New Museum. Munro’s writing appears in Slanted, Walker Gradient, and the book, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, published by Princeton Architectural Press. He has been a visiting critic at MICA, RISD, and Yale University. Munro is an Associate Professor at Otis College of Art and Design and Advisor, and Chair Emeritus at Vermont College of Fine Arts.