Neith: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, Philosophy, Jurisprudence, Criticism, History, Reform, Economics (1903–1904) was a literary magazine founded in February 1903 by Abraham Beverley Walker, in Saint John, New Brunswick. Walker founded, financed, edited, and promoted the magazine himself. Neith published five issues from February 1903 to January 1904. Although it only survived five issues, it remains historically relevant as the first literary magazine founded and managed by an African Canadian.
In the first issue of the magazine, Walker states that “our chief object is to set people thinking, to extirpate erroneous ideas, to advance the spirit of freedom, to stir up a feeling of brothership among all men, and to spread Christian civilization throughout Africa” (8). This first issue contained eleven unsigned short essays, five medium-length essays (including the first part of Walker’s “The Negro Problem”), four signed longer essays, three poems, literary notes, and editorial announcements. Walker was devoted to an Afrocentric, imperialist ideology that wanted to move educated and Anglicized Blacks from the United States, Canada, Britain, and the Caribbean to British Africa to form a model colony with the hopes of that colony one day becoming an African empire (Cahill “Walker”). Walker believed that the Afro-Canadian pedigree was Ancient-Egyptian, hence the title Neith, named after the Egyptian goddess of war, the hunt, and wisdom (Cahill “Walker”). Walker contributed more than one hundred pieces of his own to Neith over its run of just under a year, most of which contributed to the Afrocentric, imperialist ideals he held. Nearly 75% of the first issue concerns African-American, African-Canadian, or pan-African issues, politics, and initiatives (Johnson “About Neith”).
Beyond its primary focus, the magazine was relatively varied. Articles touched on the Canadian economy, the threat of irreligiosity, and English factory legislation, as well as showcasing Victorian-Romantic poems and reviews of the latest chapbooks from Charles G.D. Roberts and Bliss Carman (Johnson “About Neith”). Walker described Neith as “not a Negro magazine, not a caucasian magazine, but a Canadian magazine, inspired with Canadian principles of liberty and equity” (qtd. in Spray 66). Though Neith hoped to be a vehicle towards racial advancement, with the largest portions of every issue dedicated to racial concerns, the magazine ironically did not have a large Black readership. Very few Blacks subscribed to the magazine, possibly because many were “more concerned with the problems of life in Saint John, something the magazine rarely mentioned, and were not that interested in schemes like Walker’s back to Africa movement.” Furthermore, many of the subscribers, and many of the articles published, were by whites as well (Spray 66).
The magazine ultimately failed in January 1904 due to the costs of production. Walker begins the fifth and final issue with “A Special Note to Our Friends” in which he states the following:
[Our] undertaking, in publishing this magazine, is no flowery bed of ease, but, on the other hand, is fraught with untold perplexities, — perplexities, even at times, assuming a dramatic aspect. And we are not one bit deceived; we anticipated that such an effort required all the best elements of heroic energy, lion-hearted courage, and unyielding self-sacrifice to crown it with success; hence, we solemnly pray now as we did at the beginning that we will be equal to the occasion. As we have never accomplished anything without a hard battle, waged against a thousand odds, we shall not flinch one jot or one tittle in this struggle. We are bound to win the goal, and nothing, except sickness and death, shall daunt us. NO SURRENDER is our slogan. (199)
Although Walker died on 12 April 1909 and was not able to revive the magazine, he devoted his life to fighting against racial discrimination. Neith remains an important text in New Brunswick history for all races as the first African-Canadian literary magazine.
Emma Rhodes, Fall 2019
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Walker, A.B. Neith 1 (Feb. 1903). Ed. James W. Johnson. Wix.com. 2018
---. Neith 2 (Mar. 1903). Ed. James W. Johnson. Wix.com. 2018
---. Neith 3 (July 1903). Ed. James W. Johnson. Wix.com. 2018
---. Neith 4 (Aug. 1903). Ed. James W. Johnson. Wix.com. 2018
---. Neith 5 (Jan. 1904). Ed. James W. Johnson. Wix.com. 2018
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Cahill, Barry. “First Things in Africadia; or, the Trauma of Being a Black Lawyer in Late Victorian Saint John.” University of New Brunswick Law Journal 47 (1998): 367-380.
---. “Walker, Abraham Beverley.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 13. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1994. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 24 June 2020
Johnson, James W. “About Neith.” Neith: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, Philosophy, Jurisprudence, Criticism. Wix.com. 2018
Spray, W.A. Blacks in New Brunswick. Fredericton, NB: Brunswick Press, 1972.