Opportunity was founded in 1922 by the National Urban League. Charles S. Johnson, a researcher for the NUL, served as editor from its inception to 1928.
Opportunity’s name was taken from the slogan of the NUL, “Not alms, but opportunity.” Its primary purpose was the dissemination of information about the NUL’s activities and research. The opening editorial of the January 1923 issue articulated the journal's hope to be a powerful "new effort" in "[t]he weary struggle of the Negro population for status thru self-improvement and recognition, aided by their friends" (Vol. 1 No.1, 1).
Under the Johnson’s editorial control, however, Opportunity broadened its scope to include artistic and literary works as well. The journal's significance in the literary activity of the Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro movement increased dramatically with Johnson's announcement of a literary competition in the August 1924 issue.
Opportunity was not, however, a forerunner on the front of
publishing work by black authors. Writers such as Langston Hughes and
Countee Cullen had been able to make their voices public before they
were published in the pages of Opportunity. Scholar Chidi Ikonne points
out, "the importance of Opportunity does not lie mainly
in its being a black magazine bent on giving expression to young black
voices, but rather in its modification and intensification of what other
magazines and newspapers had been doing even before its establishment" (Ikonne
86). Johnson’s goal was to foster creative expression among young
black writers, but also to expose that writing to an audience outside
of the African American community (Austin