Join or Die


W.E.B. Du Bois


January 1, 1914

The Crisis exists for one great purpose.

The Crisis seeks to entertain its readers, and entertainment is a legitimate object for a popular magazine. Our pictures, our stories and our ornamentation are for entertainment. But the object of The Crisis is not simply to entertain.

The Crisis seeks to inform. It is in the large sense a newspaper. It deals not so much with immediate news as with forgotten, neglected and concealed news. This is its great and notable function, and gives The Crisis a peculiar place among American periodicals.

But The Crisis is not merely an entertaining newspaper.

The Crisis entertains and informs its readers for the one object and the sole object of arousing their fighting blood. The Crisis means fight and fight for Right.

More than that, The Crisis stands for a definite method of fighting. The Crisis does not simply protest or simply tell the unpalatable truth or simply cry fight wildly and crazily.

The Crisis cries fight and adds: Here are weapons, and here is the battle line:

Join or die!

What are the weapons? Organized publicity, advertisement, public meetings, petitions, arrest, law suits, protest, investigation, research, resistance—every way in which the civilized world has fought and must fight and will fight wrong.

Where is the battle line?

The battle line is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

There are individual sharpshooters fighting their own effective guerrilla warfare. We greet them and give them all credit.

There are a few organizations here and there with some activity. We would not detract a moment from the value of their work.

But the flat fact remains:

There is in the United States but one organization with permanent headquarters, paid officials, active nation­wide membership, live local branches, a national organ, law officers and traveling organizers, all organized and prepared to make a front forward fight on racial prejudice in this land. Here is the organization.

Here is the work to do.

Here are twenty local branches and over 2,100 members already banded for the warfare. What are you doing?

Join or die!

Join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or be strangled to a slow and awful death by growing prejudice.

There is no excuse.

The cost? It costs but a dollar.

The need? We need 200,000 members instead of a paltry 2,000.

The use? Merciful God! does a drowning man ask the USE of struggles? No, he struggles, he fights. He wins the shore or dies fighting.

Black men of America, are you men? Dare you fight?

Join us and fight, then.

Join or die!


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1914. “Join or Die.” The Crisis 7 (3): 133–34.