In 1926 W.E.B. DuBois, a prominent African-American writer, gave a speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). At this time there were many challenges facing African-American artists. The provision of public education for African-Americans, for instance was generally poor. This meant in turn that there were fewer opportunities for potential African-American artists to flourish. DuBois addressed this problem through a magazine called "The Crisis," which he edited. He used "The Crisis," for example, to promote contests for African-American writers.
In his 1926 speech however, Dubois was mostly concerned with the challenge of how to use art to forge a new black consciousness which could counteract the racist portrayal of black people propagated by popular culture. At this time black people were often portrayed in popular culture (such as minstrel shows or the hugely popular 1915 movie "Birth of a Nation") as animalistic, criminal, lazy and foolish. Dubois wanted black artists to use art to promote black people as intelligent, noble and strong. He believed that promoting African-Americans in this way would in turn encourage black people to have a greater respect for themselves, and to love and be proud of their blackness rather than be ashamed of it. This was the new black consciousness that Dubois thought art had a moral duty to help create.
When DuBois said that he did "not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda," the implication is that the need for a new black consciousness was so urgent as to make any black art not concerned with the promotion of this consciousness redundant, or irrelevant. DuBois also dismissed the "wailing of the purists." The "purists" argued that art should exist for art's sake, and should not be politicized. In opposition to this view DuBois suggested that art should not and could not exist in a vacuum, and he proudly asserted that all art that he had ever produced had been produced as "propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy." In his 1926 speech DuBois concluded that in a time when African-Americans were so widely vilified and persecuted, this must likewise be the primary purpose of all African-American art