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Poems Of Langston Hughes


By Hughes Langston
Poetry

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Langston Hughes


Born: February 1, 1902
Joplin, Missouri, United States
Died: May 22, 1967
New York, New York, United States
Occupation(s): Poet, novelist, short story writer, lyricist, dramatist, columnist, essayist, social activist

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and newspaper columnist. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.

Contents

Life

Langston Hughes as a baby in 1902, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes as a baby in 1902, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Langston Hughes was born James Mercer Langston Hughes in Joplin, Missouri, the son of Carrie Langston Hughes, a teacher, and her husband, James Nathaniel Hughes. After abandoning his family and the resulting legal dissolution of the marriage later, James Hughes left for Cuba first, then Mexico due to enduring racism in the United States. After the separation of his parents, young Langston was left to be raised mainly by his grandmother, Mary Langston, as his mother sought employment. Through the black American oral tradition of storytelling, she would instill in the young Langston Hughes a sense of indelible racial pride.[1][2][3] He spent most of childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. After the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends, James and Mary Reed, for two years. His childhood was not an entirely happy one, due to an unstable early life, but it was one that heavily influenced the poet he would become. Later, he lived again with his mother in Lincoln, Illinois who had remarried when he was still an adolescent, and eventually in Cleveland, Ohio where he attended high school.

Langston Hughes in Cleveland,Ohio high school circa 1919-1920, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes in Cleveland,Ohio high school circa 1919-1920, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

While in grammar school in Lincoln, Illinois, he was designated class poet because of, Hughes said later as an adult, his race, African Americans then being stereotyped as having rhythm.[4] "I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everyone knows — except us — that all Negroes have rhythm, so they elected me as class poet."[5] During high school in Cleveland, Ohio, he wrote for the school paper, edited the yearbook, and began to write his first short stories, poetry, and dramatic plays. His first piece of jazz poetry, When Sue Wears Red, was written while he was still in high school. It was during this time that he discovered his love of books. From this early period in his life, Hughes would cite as influences on his poetry the American poets Paul Laurence Dunbar and Carl Sandburg. Hughes spent a brief period of time with his father in Mexico in 1919. The relationship between him and his father was troubled, causing Hughes a degree of dissatisfaction that led him to contemplate suicide at least once. Upon graduating from high school in June of 1920, Hughes returned to live with his father, hoping to convince him to provide money to attend Columbia University. Hughes later said that, prior to arriving in Mexico again, "I had been thinking about my father and his strange dislike of his own people. I didn't understand it, because I was a Negro, and I liked Negroes very much."[6][7][8] Initially, his father hoped for Langston to attend a university anywhere but in the United States, and to study for a career in engineering. On these grounds, he was willing to provide financial assistance to his son. James Hughes did not support his son's desire to be a writer. Eventually, Langston and his father came to a compromise. Langston would study engineering so long as he could attend Columbia. His tuition provided, Hughes left his father after more than a year of living with him. While at Columbia in 1921, Hughes managed to maintain a B+ grade average. He left in 1922 because of racial prejudice within the institution, and his interests revolved more around the neighborhood of Harlem than his studies, though he continued writing poetry.

Langston Hughes, photographed by Nickolas Muray, 1923
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Langston Hughes, photographed by Nickolas Muray, 1923

Hughes worked various odd jobs before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending 6 months traveling to West Africa and Europe.[9]In Europe, Hughes left the S.S. Malone for a temporary stay in Paris. Unlike specific writers of the post-World War I era who became identified as the Lost Generation, writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hughes instead spent time in Paris during the early 1920s becoming part of the black expatriate community. In November 1924 Hughes returned to the U. S. to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. Hughes again found work doing various odd jobs before gaining white-collar employment in 1925 as a personal assistant to the scholar Carter G. Woodson within the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Not satisfied with the demands of the work and time constraints this position with Carter placed on the hours he spent writing, Hughes quit this job for one as a busboy in a hotel. It was while working as a busboy that Hughes would encounter the poet Vachel Lindsay. Impressed with the poems Hughes showed him, Lindsay publicized his discovery of a new black poet, though by this time Hughes' earlier work had already been published in magazines and was about to be collected into his first book of poetry.

Langston Hughes, Lincoln University, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes, Lincoln University, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The following year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, PA, a HBCU.[10][11] Hughes received a B.A. degree from Lincoln University in 1929 and a Litt.D. in 1943 from Lincoln. A second honorary doctorate would be awarded to him in 1963 by Howard University, another HBCU. Except for travels that included parts of the Caribbean and West Indies, Harlem was Hughes’s primary home for the remainder of his life.

On May 22, 1967, Hughes died from complications after abdominal surgery related to prostate cancer at the age of 65. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer leading to the auditorium named for him within the Arthur Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.[12] Many of Langston Hughes' personal papers reside in the Langston Hughes Memorial Library on the campus of Lincoln University as well as at the James Weldon Johnson Collection within the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Career

Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues, Cover design by Miguel Covarrubias, 1926
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Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues, Cover design by Miguel Covarrubias, 1926

First debuting in The Crisis in 1921, the prose that would become the signature poem of Hughes appeared in his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, published in 1926, The Negro Speaks of Rivers:[13]

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Jessie Fauset,Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston,1927, Tuskegee. Courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Jessie Fauset,Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston,1927, Tuskegee. Courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Hughes' life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s alongside those of his contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas who collectively, with the exception of McKay, created the short lived magazine Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists. Hughes and his comptemporaries were often in conflict with the goals and aspirations of the black middle class and the three considered the midwives of the Harlem Renaissance, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Alain Locke, who they accused of being overly fulsome in accommodating and assimilating eurocentric values and culture for social equality. Of primary conflict were the depictions of the "low-life", that is, the real lives of blacks in the lower social-economic strata and the superficial divisions and prejudices based on skin color within the black community.[14] Hughes wrote what would be considered the manifesto for himself and his comtemporaries published in The Nation in 1926, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain:

The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express
our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.
If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not,
it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too.
The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people
are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure
doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow,
strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain
free within ourselves.

Hughes was unashamedly black at a time when blackness was demode, and, he didn’t go much beyond the themes of black is beautiful as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths.[15] His main concern was the uplift of his people who he judged himself the adequate appreciator of and whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of the general American experience.[16][17] Thus, his poetry and fiction centered generally on insightful views of the working class lives of blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Permeating his work is pride in the African American identity and its diverse culture. "My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind,"[18] Hughes is quoted as saying. Therefore, in his work he confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded African America’s image of itself; a “people’s poet” who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality.[19] An expression of this is the poem My People:[20]

Langston Hughes, Charles S. Johnson, E. Franklin Frazier, Rudolph Fisher, & Hubert Delany. African American writers influenced the Négritude movement in France. Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Claude Mckay were the most influential. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes, Charles S. Johnson, E. Franklin Frazier, Rudolph Fisher, & Hubert Delany. African American writers influenced the Négritude movement in France. Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Claude Mckay were the most influential. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Moreover, Hughes stressed the importance of a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism absent of self-hate that united people of African descent and Africa across the globe and encouraged pride in their own diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic. Langston Hughes was one of the few black writers of any consequence to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists.[21] His African-American race consciousness and cultural nationalism would influence many foreign black writers such as Jacques Roumain, Nicolás Guillén , Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire. With Senghor and Césaire and other French speaking writers of Africa and of African descent from the Caribbean like René Maran from Martinique and Léon Damas from French Guiana in South America, the works of Hughes helped to inspire the concept that became the Négritude movement in France where a radical black self-examination was emphasized in the face of European colonialism.[22][23] Langston Hughes was not only a role model for his calls for black racial pride instead of assimilation, but the most important technical influence in his emphasis on folk and jazz rhythms as the basis of his poetry of racial pride.[24]

Langston Hughes & Griff Davis. While at Atlanta University, Hughes and Davis collaborated on a word and photo essay documenting and contrasting the African American bourgeoisie community and poor black ghettos in Atlanta, Georgia. Their work later appeared in Ebony magazine. Photograph Griff Davis, 1947.
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Langston Hughes & Griff Davis. While at Atlanta University, Hughes and Davis collaborated on a word and photo essay documenting and contrasting the African American bourgeoisie community and poor black ghettos in Atlanta, Georgia. Their work later appeared in Ebony magazine. Photograph Griff Davis, 1947.

In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature.[25]The protagonist of the story is a boy named Sandy whose family must deal with a variety of struggles imposed upon them due to their race and class in society in addition to relating to one another. Hughes first collection of short stories came in 1934 with The Ways of White Folks.[26][27] These stories provided a series of vignettes revealing the humorous and tragic interactions between whites and blacks. Overall, these stories are marked by a general pessimism about race relations, as well as a sardonic realism.[28]He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935. In 1938, Hughes would establish the Harlem Suitcase Theater followed by the New Negro Theater in 1939 in Los Angeles, and the Skyloft Players in Chicago in 1941. The same year Hughes established his threatre troupe in Los Angeles, his ambition to write for the movies materialized when he co-wrote the screenplay for Way Down South.[29]Further hopes by Hughes to write for the lucrative movie trade were thwarted because of racial discrimination within the industry.[30] Through the black publication Chicago Defender, Hughes in 1943 gave creative birth to Jesse B. Semple, often referred to and spelled Simple, the everyday black man in Harlem who offered musings on topical issues of the day. He was offered to teach at a number of colleges, but seldom did. In 1947, Hughes taught a semester at the predominantly black Atlanta University. Hughes, in 1949, spent three months at the integrated Laboratory School of the University of Chicago as a "Visiting Lecturer on Poetry." He wrote novels, short stories, plays, poetry, operas, essays, works for children, and, with the encouragement of his best friend and writer, Arna Bontemps, and patron and friend, Carl Van Vechten, two autobiographies, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, as well as translating several works of literature into English. Much of his writing was inspired by the rhythms and language of the black church, and, the blues and jazz of that era, the music he believed to be the true expression of the black spirit; an example is "Harlem" (sometimes called "Dream Deferred") from Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951), from which a line was taken for the title of the play A Raisin in the Sun.[31]

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes with African writer Chinua Achebe in Lagos, Nigeria, 1962.  Chinua was one of the many African American and African writers who admired Hughes and who he heavily influenced in return. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes with African writer Chinua Achebe in Lagos, Nigeria, 1962. Chinua was one of the many African American and African writers who admired Hughes and who he heavily influenced in return. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

During the mid 1950s and 1960s, Hughes popularity among the younger generation of black writers varied as his reputation increased worldwide. With the gradual advancement toward racial integration, many black writers considered his writings of black pride and its corresponding subject matter out of date. They considered him a racial chauvinist.[32] He in turn found a number of writers like James Baldwin lacking in this same pride, over intellectualizing in their work, and occasionally vulgar.[33][34][35] Hughes wanted young black writers to be objective about their race, but not scorn or to flee it.[36] With the Black Power movement of the 1960s, though he was able to understand the main points of it, he believed that some of the younger black writers who supported it were too angry in their work. Hughes' posthumously published Panther and the Lash in 1967 was intended to show solidarity and understanding with these writers but with more skill and absent of the most virile anger and terse racial chauvinism some showed toward whites.[37][38][39] Hughes still continued to have admirers among the larger younger generation of black writers who he often helped by offering advice to and introducing to other influential persons in the literature and publishing communities. This latter group, who happened to include Alice Walker who Hughes discovered, looked upon Hughes as a hero and an example to be emulated in degrees and tones within their own work. One of these young black writers observed of Hughes, "Langston set a tone, a standard of brotherhood and friendship and cooperation, for all of us to follow. You never got from him, 'I am the Negro writer,' but only 'I am a Negro writer.' He never stopped thinking about the rest of us."[40]

Langston   Hughes after he was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1960, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes after he was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1960, photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

In 1960, the NAACP awarded Hughes the Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievements by an African American. Hughes was inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1961. In 1973, the first Langston Hughes Medal was awarded by the City College of New York.

Political views

Hughes, like many black writers and artists of his time, was drawn to the promise of Communism as an alternative to a segregated America. Many of his lesser-known political writings have been collected in two volumes published by the University of Missouri Press and reflect his attraction to Communism. An example is the poem A New Song:[41]

Langston Hughes, photographed by James Latimer Allen, 1930s
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Langston Hughes, photographed by James Latimer Allen, 1930s
I speak in the name of the black millions
Awakening to action.
Let all others keep silent a moment
I have this word to bring,
This thing to say,
This song to sing:
Bitter was the day
When I bowed my back
Beneath the slaver's whip.
That day is past.
Bitter was the day
When I saw my children unschooled,
My young men without a voice in the world,
My women taken as the body-toys
Of a thieving people.
That day is past.
Bitter was the day, I say,
When the lyncher's rope
Hung about my neck,
And the fire scorched my feet,
And the oppressors had no pity,
And only in the sorrow songs
Relief was found.
That day is past.
I know full well now
Only my own hands,
Dark as the earth,
Can make my earth-dark body free.
O thieves, exploiters, killers,
No longer shall you say
With arrogant eyes and scornful lips:
"You are my servant,
Black man-
I, the free!"
That day is past-
For now,
In many mouths-
Dark mouths where red tongues burn
And white teeth gleam-
New words are formed,
Bitter
With the past
But sweet
With the dream.
Tense,
Unyielding,
Strongand sure,
They sweep the earth-
Revolt! Arise!
The Black
And White World
Shall be one!
The Worker's World!
The past is done!
A new dream flames
Against the
Sun!
Langston Hughes with his friends on board Europa-Bremen, Meschrabpam's American Negro Film Group, June 17, 1932. Seated front center from left to right are Louise Thompson Patterson and Dorothy West. On board ship was also Ralph Bunche who was visiting Paris with Alain Locke. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes with his friends on board Europa-Bremen, Meschrabpam's American Negro Film Group, June 17, 1932. Seated front center from left to right are Louise Thompson Patterson and Dorothy West. On board ship was also Ralph Bunche who was visiting Paris with Alain Locke. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

In 1932, Hughes became part of a group of disparate blacks who went to the Soviet Union to make a film depicting the plight of most blacks living in the United States at the time. The film was never made, but Hughes was given the opportunity to travel extensively through the Soviet Union and to the Soviet controlled regions in Central Asia, the latter parts usually closed to Westerners. In Turkmenistan, Hughes met and befriended the Hungarian polymath Arthur Koestler. Hughes would also manage to travel to China and Japan before returning home to the States.

Hughes' poetry was frequently published in the CPUSA newspaper and he was involved in initiatives supported by Communist organizations, such as the drive to free the Scottsboro Boys and support of the Spanish Republic. Hughes was also involved in other Communist-led organizations like the John Reed Clubs and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, even though he was more of a sympathizer than an active participant. He signed a statement in 1938 supporting Joseph Stalin's purges and joined the American Peace Mobilization in 1940 working to keep the U.S. from participating in World War II. Hughes initially did not favor black American involvement in the war because of the irony of U.S. Jim Crow laws existing at the same time a war was being fought against Fascism and the Axis Powers. He came to support the war effort and black American involvement in it after coming to understand that blacks would also be contributing to their struggle for civil rights at home.[42]

Langston Hughes, before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953
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Langston Hughes, before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953

Hughes was accused of being a Communist by many on the political right, but he always denied it. When asked why he never joined the Communist Party, he wrote "it was based on strict discipline and the acceptance of directives that I, as a writer, did not wish to accept." He was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953. Following his appearance, he distanced himself from Communism and was subsequently rebuked by some who had previously supported him on the Radical Left. Over time, Hughes would distance himself from his most radical poems. In 1959 came the publication of his Selected Poems. Absent from this group of poems was his most controversial work.

Bibliography

Poetry

  • The Weary Blues. Knopf, 1926
  • Fine Clothes to the Jew. Knopf, 1927
  • The Negro Mother and Other Dramatic Recitations, 1931
  • Dear Lovely Death, 1931
  • The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Knopf, 1932
  • Scottsboro Limited: Four Poems and a Play. N.Y.: Golden Stair Press, 1932
  • Shakespeare in Harlem. Knopf, 1942
  • Freedom's Plow. 1943
  • Fields of Wonder. Knopf,1947
  • One-Way Ticket. 1949
  • Montage of a Dream Deferred. Holt, 1951
  • Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. 1958
  • Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. Hill & Wang, 1961
  • The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times, 1967
  • The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Knopf, 1994
  • Let America be America Again, 2004

Fiction

The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes, 1961. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes, 1961. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • Not Without Laughter. Knopf, 1930
  • The Ways of White Folks. Knopf, 1934
  • Simple Speaks His Mind. 1950
  • Laughing to Keep from Crying, Holt, 1952
  • Simple Takes a Wife. 1953
  • Sweet Flypaper of Life, photographs by Roy DeCarava. 1955
  • Simple Stakes a Claim. 1957
  • Tambourines to Glory (book), 1958
  • The Best of Simple. 1961
  • Simple's Uncle Sam. 1965
  • Something in Common and Other Stories. Hill & Wang, 1963
  • Short Stories of Langston Hughes. Hill & Wang, 1996

Non-Fiction

  • The Big Sea. New York: Knopf, 1940
  • Famous American Negroes. 1954
  • Marian Anderson: Famous Concert Singer. 1954
  • I Wonder as I Wander. New York: Rinehart & Co., 1956
  • A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, with Milton Meltzer. 1956
  • Famous Negro Heroes of America. 1958
  • Fight for Freedom: The Story of the NAACP. 1962

Major Plays

Don't You Want to Be Free?(1938) by Langston Hughes was performed for his Harlem Suitcase Theatre in Harlem. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Don't You Want to Be Free?(1938) by Langston Hughes was performed for his Harlem Suitcase Theatre in Harlem. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • Mule Bone, with Zora Neale Hurston. 1931
  • Mulatto. 1935 (renamed The Barrier, an opera, in 1950)
  • Troubled Island, with William Grant Still. 1936
  • Little Ham. 1936
  • Emperor of Haiti. 1936
  • Don't You Want to be Free? 1938
  • Street Scene, contributed lyrics. 1947
  • Tambourines to glory. 1956
  • Simply Heavenly. 1957
  • Black Nativity. 1961
  • Five Plays by Langston Hughes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.
  • Jericho-Jim Crow. 1964

Works for Children

  • Popo and Fifina, with Arna Bontemps. 1932
  • The First Book of the Negroes. 1952
  • The First Book of Jazz. 1954
  • The First Book of Rhythms. 1954
  • The First Book of the West Indies. 1956
  • First Book of Africa. 1964

Other

  • The Langston Hughes Reader. New York: Braziller, 1958.
  • Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes. Lawrence Hill, 1973.
  • The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Trivia

Langston Hughes with neighborhood children at the Children's Garden, 1955. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Langston Hughes with neighborhood children at the Children's Garden, 1955. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • To prevent the neighborhood children from routinely trampling on the small patch of earth beside the front steps of his Harlem residence, Hughes conceived of a tiny garden planted and kept by the children. It was named the Children's Garden. On a picket beside each plant was posted a child's name.
  • The play Mulatto by Langston Hughes was the longest running dramatic work on Broadway by an African American until surpassed in number of performances by another African American playwright, Lorraine Hansberry and her play A Raisin in the Sun.
  • Forty-six years before the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, Hughes' mother in 1908 argued and won her case against the school board of Topeka, Kansas for refusing to admit a young Hughes to first grade in a nearby segregated white school because he was African American.[43][44]
  • Thurgood Marshall, who later became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was a classmate of Langston Hughes during his undergraduate studies at Lincoln University in the late 1920s.
  • At Lincoln University, Langston Hughes was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the first black fraternal organization founded at a historically black college or university.
The home of Langston Hughes located in Harlem, New York City.
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The home of Langston Hughes located in Harlem, New York City.
  • Landmark status was given to the Harlem home of Langston Hughes at 20 East 127th Street by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and 127th St. was renamed Langston Hughes Place.
  • In visual media, Hughes has been the subject of two theatrical plays whose subject matter concerned in part or whole the fact of his being gay. In the 1989 film, Looking For Langston by British filmmaker Isaac Julien, Hughes is reclaimed as a black gay icon from where there is a consistent attempt to ignore or at least downplay his homosexuality because he is such a towering figure in African American literature; his icon status among the African American community is contingent on his heterosexuality.[45] [46] Academics and biographers today acknowledge that Hughes was a homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman, whose work Hughes would cite as another influence on his poetry, and most patently in the short story Blessed Assurance.[47] [48] [49][50][51][52] Arnold Rampersad, the primary biographer of Hughes, determined that Hughes exhibited a preference for other African American men in his work and life.[53] This love of black men is evidenced in a number of reported unpublished poems to a black male lover.[54]
  • Also in visual media, the diminutive 5'4" Hughes was portrayed in the 2004 film Brother to Brother by 6'1" actor Daniel Sunjata. Prior to this film, in 2003, Hughes was portrayed as a teenager by actor Gary LeRoi Gray in the short film Salvation that was based on a portion of his autobiography the Big Sea.[55]
  • Hughes was the second African American to earn a living as a writer. Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first.
The terrazzo and brass African cosmogram titled Rivers on the floor in front of the Langston Hughes auditorium in the Schomberg Center for Reasearch in Black Cutlure in Harlem. Designed by artist Houston Conwill, poet  Estella Conwill Majozo, and architect Joseph DePace
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The terrazzo and brass African cosmogram titled Rivers on the floor in front of the Langston Hughes auditorium in the Schomberg Center for Reasearch in Black Cutlure in Harlem. Designed by artist Houston Conwill, poet Estella Conwill Majozo, and architect Joseph DePace
  • The design on the floor covering the cremated remains of Langston Hughes in the atrium of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem is an African cosmogram titled Rivers. The title is taken from the poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Hughes. Within the center of the cosmogram and precisely above the ashes of Hughes are the words My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Far beneath the African cosmogram covering the remains of Hughes is located the tributary of the Harlem River.

Notes

  1. ^ Hughes recalled his maternal grandmother’s stories: "Through my grandmother’s stories life always moved, moved heroically toward an end. Nobody ever cried in my grandmother’s stories. They worked, schemed, or fought. But no crying." Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.620
  2. ^ The poem Aunt Sues’s Stories (1921) is an oblique tribute to his grandmother and his loving Auntie Mary Reed. Rampersad.vol.1, 1986, p.43
  3. ^ Imbued by his grandmother with a duty to help his race, he identified with neglected and downtrodden blacks all his life, and glorified them in his work. Brooks, Gwendolyn, (Oct. 12, 1986). The Darker Brother. The New York Times
  4. ^ Langston Hughes Reads his poetry with commentary, audiotape from Caedmon Audio
  5. ^ Langston Hughes, Writer, 65, Dead. (May 23, 1967). The New York Times
  6. ^ Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (1940), pp.54-56
  7. ^ James Hughes, a wealthy lawyer and landowner and himself a black man, hated both the racism of the North and Negroes, whom he portrayed in crude racial caricature. Smith, Dinitia (Nov. 26, 1997). Child’s Tale About Race Has a Tale of Its Own. The New York Times
  8. ^ And the father, Hughes said, "hated Negroes. I think he hated himself, too, for being a Negro. He disliked all of his family because they were Negroes." James Hughes was tightfisted, uncharitable, cold. Brooks, Gwendolyn, (Oct. 12, 1986). The Darker Brother. The New York Times
  9. ^ Poem or To.F.S. first appeared in The Crisis in May 1925, and was reprinted in The Weary Blues and The Dream Keeper. Hughes never publicly identified F.S., but it is conjectured he was Ferdinand Smith, a merchant seaman whom the poet first met in New York in the early 1920s. Nine years older than Hughes, Smith first influenced the poet to go to sea. Born in Jamiaca in 1893, Smith spent most of his life as a ship steward and political activist at sea--and later in New York as a resident of Harlem. Smith was deported back to Jamaica for alleged Communists activities and illegal alien status in 1951. Hughes corresponded with Smith up until 1961 when Smith died. Berry,p.347
  10. ^ In 1926, a patron of Hughes, Amy Spingarn, wife of Joel Elias Spingarn, provided the funds ($300) for him to attend Lincoln University. Rampersad.vol.1, 1986,p.122-23
  11. ^ In November of 1927, Charlotte Osgood Mason, “Godmother” as she liked to be called, became Hughes' major patron. Rampersad. vol.1,1986,p.156
  12. ^ Whitaker, Charles.Ebony magazine In Langston Hughes:100th birthday celebration of the poet of black America. April 2002.
  13. ^ The Negro Speaks of Rivers: First published in Crisis (June 1921), p.17. Included in The Weary Blues, Langston Hughes Reader, and Selected Poems. In The Weary Blues, the poem is dedicated to W.E.B. Du Bois. The dedication does not appear in later printings of the poem. Hughes first and last published poems appeared in The Crisis; more of his poems appeared in The Crisis than in any other journal. Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.23 & p.620, Knopf
  14. ^ Hughes "disdained the rigid class and color differences the 'best people' drew between themselves and Afro-Americans of darker complextion, of smaller means and lesser formal education. Berry, 1983 & 1992, p.60
  15. ^ "....but his tastes and selectivity were not always accurate, and pressures to survive as a black writer in a white society (and it was a miracle that he did for so long) extracted an enormous creative toll. Nevertheless, Hughes, more than any other black poet or writer, recorded faithfully the nuances of black life and its frustrations." Patterson, Lindsay (June 29, 1969). Langston Hughes--The Most Abused Poet in America? The New York Times
    On February 1, 2002, The United States Postal Service added to its Black Heritage series of stamps the image of Langston Hughes. Photograph courtesty of the United States Postal Service
    Enlarge
    On February 1, 2002, The United States Postal Service added to its Black Heritage series of stamps the image of Langston Hughes. Photograph courtesty of the United States Postal Service
  16. ^ Brooks, Gwendolyn, (Oct. 12, 1986). The Darker Brother. The New York Times
  17. ^ Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.3
  18. ^ Rampersad,1988,vol.2,p.418
  19. ^ West. 2003, p.162
  20. ^ My People: First published as Poem in Crisis (Oct.1923),p. 162, and The Weary Blues (1926). The title My People was used in The Dream Keeper (1932) and the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1959). Rampersad,Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.36 & p.623, Knopt.
  21. ^ Rampersad.vol.2, 1988, p.297
  22. ^ Rampersad.vol.1, 1986, p. 91
  23. ^ Mercer Cook, African American scholar of French culture: "His (Langston Hughes) work had a lot to do with the famous concept of Négritude, of black soul and feeling, that they were beginning to develop." Rampersad.vol.1, 1986, p. 343
  24. ^ Rampersad.vol.1, 1986, p. 343
  25. ^ Charlotte Mason generously supported him (Hughes) for two years. She supervised the writing of his first novel, Not Without Laughter (1930). Her patronage of Hughes ended about the time the novel appeared. Rampersad. Langston Hughes. In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p.207
  26. ^ Noel Sullivan, after working out an agreement with Hughes, became a patron for him in 1933. Rampersad. vol.1, 1986, p.277
  27. ^ Sullivan provided Hughes with the opportunity to complete the The Ways of White Folks (1934) in Carmel, California. Hughes stayed a year in a cottage Sullivan provided for him to work in. Rampersad. Langston Hughes. In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p.207
  28. ^ Rampersad. “Langston Hughes.” In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature.2001.p.207
  29. ^ Co-written with Clarence Muse, African American Hollywood actor and musician. Rampersad.vol.1, 1986, p. 366-69
  30. ^ Gwendolyn Brooks, who met Hughes when she was 16 says, "I met Langston Hughes when I was 16 years old, and saw enough of him in subsequent years to observe that, when subjected to offense and icy treatment because of his race, he was capable of jagged anger - and vengeance, instant or retroactive. And I have letters from him that reveal he could respond with real rage when he felt he was treated cruelly by other people. Brooks, Gwendolyn, (Oct. 12, 1986). The Darker Brother. The New York Times
    Langston Hughes with fellow African American writer Gwendolyn Brooks for the promotion of The Poetry of the Negro in Chicago, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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    Langston Hughes with fellow African American writer Gwendolyn Brooks for the promotion of The Poetry of the Negro in Chicago, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  31. ^ Harlem(2): Reprinted in Selected Poems of Langston Hughs under the title Dream Deferred. Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.426 & p.676, Knopf
  32. ^ Rampersad,1988,vol.2,p.207
  33. ^ Langstons’s misgivings about the new black writing mainly concerned its emphasis on black criminality and on profanity.Rampersad,vol.2,p.207
  34. ^ Hughes said, "There are millions of blacks who never murder anyone, or rape or get raped or want to rape, who never lust after white bodies, or cringe before white stupidity, or Uncle Tom, or go crazy with race, or off-balacne with frustration." Rampersad, p.119, vol.2
  35. ^ Langston eargerly looked to the day when the gifted young writers of his race would go beyond the clamor of civil rights and integration and take a genuine pride in being black....he found this latter quality starkly absent in even the best of them....Rampersad, vol. 2, p.310
  36. ^ Rampersad.vol.2, 1988, p. 297
  37. ^ "As for whites in general, Hughes did not like them...He felt he had been exploited and humiliated by them." Rampersad, 1988,vol.2,p.338
  38. ^ Hughes' advice on how to deal with racists was "'Always be polite to them...be over-polite. Kill them with kindness.' But, he insisted on recognizing that all whites are not racist, and definitely enjoyed the company of those who sought him out in friendship and with respect." Rampersad, 1988,vol.2,p.368
  39. ^ Langston Hughes’ critics have said that he was racist against whites. I would agree with that statement but would also say that Hughes had seen enough poor judgement in whites across the globe to feel that way. It is interesting that on the inside cover of The Ways of White Folks, Hughes says To Noel Sullivan, The ways of white folks; I mean some white folks…(The Ways of White Folks…inside cover). This clearly shows that Hughes saw the good in some whites and was not entirely militant in his thought. Seat, Rob(2000). An Analization of Langston Hughes.Retrieved September 7, 2006
  40. ^ Rampersad,1988,vol.2,p.409
  41. ^ A New Song: The end of the poem was substantially changed when it was included in A New Song (New York: International Workers Order, 1938). The first version, in Opportunity (Jan. 1933), p. 123, and Crisis (March 1933), p.59. reads after line 39:
    New words are formed,
    Bitter
    With the past
    And sweet
    with the dream.
    Tense, silent,
    Without a sound.
    They fall unuttered--
    Yet heard everywhere:
    Take care!
    Black world
    Against the wall,
    Open your eyes--
    The long white snake of greed has struck to kill!
    Be wary and
    Be wise!
    Before
    The darker world
    The future lies.
    Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.170 & p.643, Knopf
  42. ^ Irma Cayton, African American, said "He had told me that it wasn't our war, it wasn't our business, there was too much Jim Crow. But he had changed his mind about all that." Rampersad,1988,vol.2,p.85
  43. ^ Rampersad,vol.1,1986,p.12
  44. ^ In school in Topeka (his mother had to fight the school board to secure his admittance to the all-white Harrison Street School), the seemingly "gentle and kind" teacher would say loudly for all the class to hear, as she removed licorice sticks from the grasp of a white pupil, "You don't want to eat these; they'll make you black like Langston. You don't want to be black, do you?" Because he was a superior student, she had to give him excellent grades, but she taunted him steadily, and did nothing when his classmates slapped, stoned or snowballed him. Brooks, Gwendolyn, (Oct. 12, 1986). The Darker Brother. The New York Times
  45. ^ Bernard. Emily [1]Retrieved October 15, 2006
  46. ^ Highleyman, Liz. (February 27, 2004)Past Out: Langston Hughes' legacy Retrieved October 15, 2006
  47. ^ Hughes sensed that patron Noel Sullivan "like himself, was a homosexual." Berry,1983 & 1992, p.150
  48. ^ Yale Symposium, Was Langston Gay? commemorating the 100th birthday of Hughes in 2002
    Jean Blackwell Hutson and Langston Hughes pictured at the Schomburg Collection with Pietro Calvi's bust of Ira Aldridge as Othello,  1948. Photograph courtesy of Arthur Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture
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    Jean Blackwell Hutson and Langston Hughes pictured at the Schomburg Collection with Pietro Calvi's bust of Ira Aldridge as Othello, 1948. Photograph courtesy of Arthur Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture
  49. ^ Schwarz,pp.68-88
  50. ^ Nero, Charles. Gay Literature. In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p.161
  51. ^ Jean Blackwell Hutson, former chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, said, “He was always eluding marriage. He said marriage and career didn’t work.....It wasn’t until his later years that I became convinced he was homosexual.” Hutson & Nelson. Essence magazine, February 1992. p.96
  52. ^ "Though there were infrequent and half-hearted affairs with women, most people considered Hughes asexual, insistent on a skittish, carefree 'innocence.' In fact, he was a closeted homosexual...."McClatchy,J.D. (2002).Langston Hughes: Voice of the Poet. New York: Random House Audio, p.12
  53. ^ "Referring to men of African descent, Rampersad writes "...Hughes found some young men, especially dark-skinned men, appealing and sexully facinating. (Both in his various artistic representations, in fiction especially, and in his life, he appears to have found young white men of little sexual appeal.) Virile young men of very dark complexion facinated him. Rampersad,vol.2,1988,p.336
  54. ^ Sandra West explicitly states Hughes' "apparent love for black men as evidenced through a series of unpublished poems he wrote to a black male lover named 'Beauty'." West,2003. p.162
  55. ^ IMDb[2]Retrieved November 4,2006
Page from The Negro Mother & Other Dramatic Recitations (1931) by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Prentiss Taylor. With the aide of Carl Van Vechten, Hughes and Taylor created the short-lived Golden Stair Press. Photograph courtesy of the Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution
Enlarge
Page from The Negro Mother & Other Dramatic Recitations (1931) by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Prentiss Taylor. With the aide of Carl Van Vechten, Hughes and Taylor created the short-lived Golden Stair Press. Photograph courtesy of the Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution

References

  • Bernard, Emily (2001). Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45113-7
  • Berry, Faith (1983.1992,). Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem. In On the Cross of the South, p.150; & Zero Hour, p.185-186. Citadel Press ISBN 0-517-14769-6
  • Hutson, Jean Blackwell; & Nelson, Jill (February 1992). "Remembering Langston". Essence magazine, p.96.
  • Joyce, Joyce A. (2004). A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes. In Steven C. Tracy (Ed.), Hughes and Twentieth-Century Genderracial Issues, p.136. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-514434-1
  • Nichols, Charles H. (1980). Arna Bontempts-Langston Hughes Letters, 1925-1967. Dodd, Mead & Company. ISBN 0-396-07687-4
  • Rampersad, Arnold (1986). The Life of Langston Hughes Volume 1: I, Too, Sing America. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-514642-5
  • Rampersad, Arnold (1988). The Life of Langston Hughes Volume 2: I Dream A World. In Ask Your Mama!, p.336. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-514643-3
  • Schwarz, Christa A.B. (2003). Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance. In Langston Hughes: A "true 'people's poet",pp.68-88.Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-21607-9
  • West, Sandra L. (2003). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. In Aberjhani & Sandra West (Ed.), Langston Hughes, p.162. Checkmark Press ISBN 0-8160-4540-2

See also

  • Harlem Renaissance
  • African American literature
  • Pan-Africanism
  • Négritude


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