Wallace Henry Thurman (1902–1934) was an American novelist active during the Harlem Renaissance. He also wrote essays, worked as an editor, and was a publisher of short-lived newspapers and literary journals. He is best known for his novel The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929), which explores discrimination within the black community based on skin color, with lighter skin being more highly valued.
In 1925 Thurman moved to Harlem. During the next decade, he worked as a ghostwriter, a publisher, and editor, as well as writing novels, plays, and articles. In 1926, he became the editor of The Messenger, a socialist journal addressed to blacks. There he was the first to publish the adult-themed stories of Langston Hughes. Thurman left the journal in October 1926 to become the editor of World Tomorrow, which was owned by whites. The following month, he collaborated in founding the literary magazine Fire!! Devoted to the Younger Negro Artists. Among its contributors were Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Bruce Nugent, Aaron Douglas, and Gwendolyn B. Bennett.
He was able to publish only one issue of Fire!!. It challenged such figures as W. E. B. Du Bois and African Americans who had been working for social equality and racial integration. Thurman criticized them for believing that black art should serve as propaganda for those ends. He said that the New Negro movement spent too much energy trying to show white Americans that blacks were respectable and not inferior.
Thurman and others of the “Niggerati” (the deliberately ironic name he used for the young African American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance) wanted to show the real lives of African Americans, both the good and the bad. Thurman believed that black artists should fully acknowledge and celebrate the arduous conditions of African American lives.