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Langston hughes Langston hughes Document Transcript

  • Langston Hughes Hughes, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1936 Born February 1, 1902 Joplin, Missouri United States Died May 22, 1967 (aged 65) New York City, New York, United States Occupation poet, columnist, dramatist, essayist, lyricist, novelist Nationality American Ethnicity African American, White American and Native American Period 1926–1964
  • Biography Ancestry and childhood Both of Hughes' paternal and maternal great-grandmothers were African-American, his maternal great-grandfather was white and of Scottish descent. A paternal greatgrandfather was of European Jewish descent. Hughes's maternal grandmother Mary Patterson was of African-American, French, English and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she first married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race. Lewis Sheridan Leary subsequently joined John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859 and died from his wounds. In 1869 the widow Mary Patterson Leary married again, into the elite, politically active Langston family. Her second husband was Charles Henry Langston, of African American, Native American, and Euro-American ancestry. He and his younger brother John Mercer Langston worked for the abolitionist cause and helped lead the Ohio AntiSlavery Society in 1858. Charles Langston later moved to Kansas, where he was active as an educator and activist for voting and rights for African Americans Charles and Mary's daughter Caroline was the mother of Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, the second child of school teacher Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes (1871–1934). Langston Hughes grew up in a series of Midwestern small towns. Hughes's father left his family and later divorced Carrie, going to Cuba, and then Mexico, seeking to escape the enduring racism in the United States. After the separation of his parents, while his mother travelled seeking employment, young Langston Hughes was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas. Through the black American oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled in the young Langston Hughes a lasting sense of racial pride. He spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. After the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends, James and Mary Reed, for two years. Because of the unstable early life, his childhood was not an entirely happy one, but it strongly influenced the poet he would become. Later, Hughes lived again with his mother Carrie in Lincoln, Illinois. She had remarried when he was still an adolescent, and eventually they lived in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended high school. The Hughes' home in Cleveland was sold in foreclosure in 1918; the 2.5-story, woodframe house on the city's east side was sold at a sheriff's auction in February for $16,667. While in grammar school in Lincoln, Hughes was elected class poet. Hughes stated that in retrospect he thought it was because of the stereotype that African Americans have rhythm. "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." During high school in Cleveland, Ohio, he wrote for the school newspaper, 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 in high school. It was during this time that he discovered his love of books. Relationship with father Hughes had a very poor relationship with his father. He lived with his father in Mexico for a brief period in 1919. Upon graduating from high school in June 1920, Hughes returned to Mexico to live with his father, hoping to convince him to support Langston's plan to attend Columbia University. Hughes later said that, prior to arriving in Mexico: "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." Initially, his father had hoped for Hughes to attend a university abroad, and to study for a career in engineering. On these grounds, he was willing to provide financial assistance to his son but did not support his desire to be a writer. Eventually, Hughes and his father came to a compromise: Hughes would study engineering, so long as he could attend Columbia. His tuition provided; Hughes left his father after more than a year. While at Columbia in 1921, Hughes managed to maintain a B+ grade average. He left in 1922 because of racial prejudice, and his interests revolved more around the neighbourhood of Harlem than his studies, though he continued writing poetry. Adulthood Hughes worked various odd jobs, before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe. In Europe, Hughes left the S.S. Malone for a temporary stay in Paris. During his time in England in the early 1920s, Hughes became 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 worked at various odd jobs before gaining a whitecollar job in 1925 as a personal assistant to the historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. As the work demands limited his time for writing, Hughes quit the position to work as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel. There he encountered the poet Vachel Lindsay, with whom he shared some poems. Impressed with the poems, Lindsay publicized his discovery of a new black poet. By this time, Hughes's earlier work had been published in magazines and was about to be collected into his first book of poetry. The following year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Thurgood Marshall, who later became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was an alumnus and classmate of Langston Hughes during his undergraduate studies at Lincoln University.
  • After Hughes earned a B.A. degree from Lincoln University in 1929, he returned to New York. Except for travels to the Soviet Union and parts of the Caribbean, Hughes lived in Harlem as his primary home for the remainder of his life. During the 1930s, Hughes became a resident of Westfield, New Jersey. Some academics and biographers today believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman. Hughes has cited him as an influence on his poetry. Hughes's story "Blessed Assurance" deals with a father's anger over his son's effeminacy and "queerness".To retain the respect and support of black churches and organizations and avoid exacerbating his precarious financial situation, Hughes remained closeted. Arnold Rampersad, the primary biographer of Hughes, determined that Hughes exhibited a preference for other African-American men in his work and life. However, Rampersad denies Hughes's homosexuality in his biography. Rampersad concludes that Hughes was probably asexual and passive in his sexual relationships. He did, however show a respect and love for his fellow black man (and woman). Other scholars argue for Hughes's homosexuality: his love of black men is evidenced in a number of reported unpublished poems to an alleged black male lover Langston Hughes
  • Death 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 in the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. It is the entrance to an auditorium named for him. The design on the floor covering his ashes is an African cosmogram titled Rivers. The title is taken from his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Within the center of the cosmogram, above his ashes, is the line: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers". Career First published in The Crisis in 1921, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", which became Hughes's signature poem, was collected in his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926). Hughes's 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. Except for McKay, they worked together also to create the short-lived magazine Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists. Hughes and his contemporaries had different goals and aspirations than the black middle class. They criticized men who were known as the midwives of the Harlem Renaissance: W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Alain LeRoy Locke, as being overly accommodating and assimilating eurocentric values and culture for social equality. Hughes and his fellows tried to depict the "low-life" in their art, that is, the real lives of blacks in the lower social-economic strata. They criticized the divisions and prejudices based on skin color within the black community. Hughes wrote what would be considered the manifesto 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 démodé. He stressed the theme of "black is beautiful" as he explored the black human condition in a variety of
  • depths.His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of the general American experience. His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working class 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," Hughes is quoted as saying. 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. An expression of this is the poem "My People": 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. The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, 1934 Hughes stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism devoid of self-hate that united people of African descent and Africa across the globe and encouraged pride in their diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic. Hughes was one of the few black writers of any consequence to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists. 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. Along with the works of Senghor, Césaire,
  • and other French-speaking writers of Africa and of African descent from the Caribbean, such as René Maran from Martinique and Léon Damas from French Guiana in South America, the works of Hughes helped to inspire the Négritude movement in France. A radical black self-examination was emphasized in the face of European colonialism. In addition to his example in social attitudes, Hughes had an important technical influence by his emphasis on folk and jazz rhythms as the basis of his poetry of racial pride. In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature. The protagonist of the story is a boy named Sandy, whose family must deal with a variety of struggles due to their race and class, in addition to relating to one another. Maxim Lieber became his literary agent, 1933–1945 and 1949-1950. Hughes's first collection of short stories was published in 1934 with The Ways of White Folks. These stories are a series of vignettes revealing the humorous and tragic interactions between whites and blacks. Overall, they are marked by a general pessimism about race relations, as well as a sardonic realism. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935. The same year that Hughes established his theater troupe in Los Angeles, he realized an ambition related to films by co-writing the screenplay for Way Down South. Hughes believed his failure to gain more work in the lucrative movie trade was due to racial discrimination within the industry. 1943 In 1943, Hughes began publishing stories about a character he called Jesse B. Semple, often referred to and spelled "Simple", the everyday black man in Harlem who offered musings on topical issues of the day. Hughes seldom responded to requests to teach at colleges. In 1947, Hughes taught at Atlanta University. Hughes, in 1949, spent three months at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools as a visiting lecturer. 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. 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. He found such writers, for instance, James Baldwin, lacking in such pride, overintellectual in their work, and occasionally vulgar. Hughes wanted young black writers to be objective about their race, but not to scorn it or flee it. He understood the main points of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, but believed that some of the younger black writers who supported it were too angry in their work. Hughes's work Panther and the Lash, posthumously published in 1967, was intended to show solidarity with these writers, but with more skill and devoid of the most virulent anger and terse racial chauvinism some showed toward whites. Hughes continued to have admirers among the larger younger generation of black writers, whom he often helped by offering advice and introducing them to other influential persons in the literature and publishing communities. This latter group, including Alice Walker, whom 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." 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". In 1932, Hughes became part of a group of black people who went to the Soviet Union to make a film depicting the plight of African Americans in the United States. 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. While there, he met African-American Robert Robinson, living in Moscow and unable to leave. In Turkmenistan, Hughes met and befriended the Hungarian polymath Arthur Koestler. Hughes also managed to travel to China and Japan before returning to the States. Hughes's 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. Partly as a show of support for the Republican faction during the Spanish Civil War, in 1937 Hughes traveled to Spain as a correspondent for the
  • Baltimore Afro-American and other various African-American newspapers. Hughes was also involved in other Communist-led organizations like the John Reed Clubs and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. 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 persistence of discriminatory U.S. Jim Crow laws existing while blacks were encouraged to fight against Fascism and the Axis powers. He came to support the war effort and black American involvement in it after deciding that blacks would also be contributing to their struggle for civil rights at home. 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." In 1953, he was called before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. 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 his collection of Selected Poems was published. He excluded his most controversial work from this group of poems. Stage and film depictions Hughes's life has been depicted in many stage and film productions. Hannibal of the Alps by Michael Dinwiddie and Paper Armor by Eisa Davis are plays by AfricanAmerican playwrights which deal with Hughes's sexuality. In the 1989 film, Looking for Langston, British filmmaker Isaac Julien claimed Hughes as a black gay icon — Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had historically been ignored or downplayed. In the film Get on the Bus, directed by Spike Lee, a black gay character, played by Isaiah Washington, invokes the name of Hughes and punches a homophobic character while commenting, "This is for James Baldwin and Langston Hughes." Film portrayals of Hughes include Gary LeRoi Gray's role as a teenage Hughes in the 2003 short subject film Salvation (based on a portion of his autobiography The Big Sea) and Daniel Sunjata as Hughes in the 2004 film Brother to Brother. Hughes' Dream Harlem, a documentary by Jamal Joseph, examines Hughes' works and environment. Literary archives The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University holds the Langston Hughes papers (1862–1980) and the Langston Hughes collection (1924–1969) containing letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, artworks, and objects that document the life of Hughes. The Langston Hughes Memorial Library on the campus of Lincoln University, as well as at the James Weldon Johnson Collection within the Yale University also hold archives of Hughes' work.
  • Honors and awards 1943, Lincoln University awarded Hughes an honorary Litt.D. 1960, the NAACP awarded Hughes the Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievements by an African American. 1961 National Institute of Arts and Letters 1963 Howard University awarded Hughes an honorary doctorate. 1973, the first Langston Hughes Medal was awarded by the City College of New York. 1979, Langston Hughes Middle School was created in Reston, Virginia. 1981, New York City Landmark status was given to the Harlem home of Langston Hughes at 20 East 127th Street (40°48′26.32″N 73°56′25.54″W / 40.8073111°N 73.9404278°W) by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and 127th St. was renamed Langston Hughes Place. The Langston Hughes House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. 2002 The United States Postal Service added the image of Langston Hughes to its Black Heritage series of postage stamps. 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Langston Hughes on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. Bibliography Poetry collections 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, Golden Stair Press, N.Y., 1932 Let America Be America Again, 1938 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
  • Novels and short story collections 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 Tambourines to Glory 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 books The Big Sea. New York: Knopf, 1940 Famous American Negroes. 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 by Hughes 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 Marian Anderson: Famous Concert Singer. with Steven C. Tracy 1954
  • The First Book of Rhythms. 1954 The First Book of the West Indies. 1956 First Book of Africa. 1964 Further reading 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. "My Adventures as a Social Poet" by Langston Hughes. Essay. Phylon 3rd Quarter 1947 "The Negro Artist and The Racial Mountain" by Langston Hughes Langston Hughes (1902-1967) 1967) African-American poet, novelist, and playwright, who became one of the foremost interpreters of racial relationships in the United States. Influenced by the Bible, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Walt Whitman, Hughes depicted realistically the ordinary lives of black people. Many of his poems, written in rhythmical language, have been set to music. Hughes's poems were meant 'to be read aloud, crooned, shouted and sung'. "Rest at pale evening... A tall slim tree... Night coming tendrerly Black like me. (from Dream Variations, 1926) James Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. His mother was a school teacher, she also wrote poetry. His father, James Nathaniel Hughes, was a storekeeper. He had wanted to become a lawyer, but he had been denied to take the bar exam. Hughes's parents separated and his mother moved from city to city in search of work. In his rootless childhood, Hughes lived in Mexico, Topeka, Kansas, Colorado, Indiana and Buffalo. Part of his childhood Hughes lived with his grandmother. At the age of 13 he moved back with his mother and her second husband. Later the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Hughes's stepfather worked in the steel mills. During this period Hughes found the poems of Carl Sandburg, whose unrhymed free verse influenced him deeply. After graduating from a high school in Cleveland, Hughes spent a year in Mexico with his light-skinned father, who had found there a release as a successful cattle rancher from racism of the North. On the train, when he returned to the north, Hughes wrote one of his most famous poems, 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers'. It appeared in the African-American journal Crisis (1921). As an adolescent in Cleveland he participated in the activity of Karamu Players, and published in 1921 his first play, THE GOLDEN PIECE in 1921.
  • Supported by his father, Hughes entered in the early 1920s the Columbia University, New York. For the permanent disappointment of his father, Hughes soon abandoned his studies, and participated in more entertaining jazz and blues activities in nearby Harlem. Disgusted with life at the university and to see the world, he enlisted as a steward on a freighter bound to West Africa. He traveled to Paris, worked as a doorman and a bouncer of a night club, and continued to Italy. After his return to the United States, Hughes worked in menial jobs and wrote poems, which earned him scholarship to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. According an anecdote, Hughes was "discovered" by the poet Vachel Lindsay in Washington. Lindsay was dining at the Wardman Park Hotel, where Hughes worked as a busboy, and dropped his poems beside the Lindsay's dinner plate. Lindsay included several of them in his poetry reading. It prompted interviews of the "busboy poet". Hughes quit his job and moved to New York City. In 1929 Hughes received his bachelor's degree. He was celebrated as a young promising poet of the generation, publishing his poetry in Crisis (1923-24) and in Alain Locke's anthology The New Negro (1925). His first book of verse, THE WEARY BLUES, supported by Carl Van Vechten, appeared in 1926. "My news is this: that I handed The Weary Blues to Knopf yesterday with the proper incantations. I do not feel particularly dubious about the outcome: your poems are too beautiful to escape appreciation. I find they have a subtle haunting quality which lingers in the memory and an extraordinary sensitivity to all that is kind and lovely." (from Van Vechten's letter to Hughes in Remember me to Harlem, ed. by Emily Bernard, 2001) Hughes valued Van Vechten's criticism and dedicated him his second collection of poetry, FINE CLOTHES TO THE JEW (1927). Their correspondence, which lasted until Van Vechten's death in 1964, was published in 2001. The Weary Blues assimilated techniques associated with the secular music with verse, while its content reflected the lives of African-Americans. "Drowning a drowsy syncopated tune, / Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, / I heard a Negro play. / By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light / He did a lazy sway... / He did a lazy sway..." (from 'The Weary Blues,' the title poem of the collection) Hughes was considered one of the leading voices in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s His first novel, NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER (1930), Hughes wrote with the financial support of Charlotte Mason, a wealthy white woman. The book had a cordial reception and Hughes bought a Ford. He toured the colleges of southern America as a teacher and poet. Hughes was one of the first black authors, who could support himself by his writings. In the 1930s Hughes traveled in the Soviet Union, Haiti, and Japan. During his visit in the Soviet Union, to write the English dialogue for a film about black American workers, he had also an affair with an Oriental ballerina. Hughes's poem 'Goodbye, Christ', written during the journey, was attacked by a right-wing religious group in the 1940s. Although Hughes decided to repudiate the poem publicly, he also embraced radical politics, publishing a collection of satiric short stories, THE WAY OF WHITE FOLKS (1943), and returned to satire and racial prejudices later in LAUGHING TO KEEP FROM CRYING
  • (1952) and SOMETHING IN COMMON (1963). Hughes emphasized the importance of African culture and shared Du Bois's belief that renewal could only come from an understanding of African roots. "My old man died in a fine big house. My ma died in a shack. I wonder where I'm gonna die, Being neither white nor black?" (from 'Cross') Hughes's play THE MULATTO (1935), revised without his knowledge, opened on Broadway in 1935. The producer inserted a rape in it. Alterations displeased Hughes, but in the same year he won a Guggenheim Fellowship. He founded in the 1930s and 1940s black theatre groups in Harlem, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In the Spanish Civil War (1937) he served as a newspaper correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American. During this time he became a friend of Ernest Hemingway, with whom he attended bullfights. In 1942 he made Harlem his permanent home, although he began lecturing at universities around the country. Hughes wrote children's stories, non-fiction, and numerous works for the stage, including lyrics for Kurt Weill's and Elmer Rice's opera Street Scene, screenplay for the Hollywood film Way Down South with the actor Clarence Muse, and translated the poetry of Federico García Lorca and Gabriela Mistral. Hughes's Christmas play, Black Nativity, has been produced every year by major black theaters. Hughes's inaccurate reputation for being a Communist dates from his poems in the 1930s. In 1953, during the era of McCarthyism, Hughes tested to the Senate committee that he was not, and never had been, a Communist. He named no names, well aware of blacklisting and its effects on such radicals as Paul Robeson. In several of his poems, Hughes had expressed with ardent voice sociopolitical protests. He portrayed people, whose lives were impacted by racism and sexual conflicts, he wrote about southern violence, Harlem street life, poverty, prejudice, hunger, hopelessness. But basically he was a conscientious artist, kept his middle-of-the road stance and worked hard to chronicle the black American experience, contrasting the beauty of the soul with the oppressive circumstance. "Wear it Like a banner For the proud Not like a shroud." (from Color, 1943) In the 1950s Hughes published among others MONTAGE OF A DREAM DEFERRED (1951), which included his famous poem 'Harlem', PICTORIAL HISTORY OF NEGRO IN AMERICA (1956), and edited THE BOOK OF NEGRO FOLKLORE (1958) with Arna Bontemps. Hughes's autobiographicals books include THE BIG SEA (1940) and I WONDER AS I WANDER (1956). For juveniles he did a series of 'Famous' biographies,
  • beginning with FAMOUS AMERICAN NEGROES (1954). His popular comic character Jesse B. Semple, or "Simple," appeared in columns for the Chicago Defender and the New York Post. Hughes had met the prototype of the character in a bar. The ironic comments of the street-wise Harlem dweller were first collected into SIMPLE SPEAKS HIS MIND (1950). In the last Simple collection, SIMPLE'S UNCLE SAM (1965), Hughes wrote: "My mama should have named me Job instead of Jesse B. Semple. I have been underfed, underpaid, undernourished, and everything but undertaken - yet I am still here. The only thing I am afraid of now - is that I will die before my time." In his later years Hughes held posts at the Universities of Chicago and Atlanta. The poet also witnessed that doctoral dissertations already begun to be written about him the earliest book on his work appeared already in the 1930s. Hughes never married and there has been unrelevant speculations about his sexuality. Several of his friends were homosexual, among them Carl Van Vechten, who wrote the controversial novel Nigger Heaven (1926) - Hughes had recommended the choice of the title - but several were not. Hughes died in Polyclinic Hospital in New York, on May 22, 1967, of complications after surgery. His collection of political poems, THE PANTHER AND THE LASH (1967), reflected the anger and militancy of the 1960s. The book had been rejected first by Knopf in 1964 as too risky. Hughes's own history of NAACP appeared in 1962; he had received a few year's earlier the NAACP'S Spingarn Medal. Hughes published more than 35 books, he was a versatile writer, but he hated "long novels, narrative poems", as he once said. Although the Harlem Renaissance faded away during the Great Depression, its influence is seen in the writings of later authors, such as James Baldwin, who, however, criticized Hughes's poetic achievement. From the late 1940's through the 1950's Hughes revised under pressure his poems- may of them became less tough. For further reading: To Make a Black Poet by S. Redding (1939); Langston Hughes by J. Emanuel (1967); Black Genius: A Critical Evaluation, ed. by T. O'Daniel (1971); A Biobibliography of Langston Hughes 1902-1967 by D.C. Dickinson (1972); Langston Hughes: The Poet and His Critics by R.K. Barksdale (1977); The Life of Langston Hughes: 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America by Arnold Rampersad (1986); The Life of Langston Hughes, 1941-1967: I Dream a World by Arnold Rampersad (1988); The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes by R. Baxter Miller (1990); Langston Hughes: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, ed. by Henry Louis Gates (1993); Langston Hughes: A Study of the Short Fiction by Hans Ostrom (1993); Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes by Floyd Cooper (1994 - note: for ages 4-8); Free to Dream by Audrey Osofsky (1996 - note: for ages 9-12); Langston Hughes by Joseph McLaren et al (1997); Langston Hughes: Poet of the Harlem Renaissance by Christine M. Hill (1997); Langston Hughes: Comprehensive Reserach and Study Guide, ed. by Harold Bloom (1999); Remember me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964, edited by Emily Bernard (2001) - Harlem Renaissance: Countee Cullen - Harlem literature: (novels) Jean Toomer's experimental Cane (1923), Claude McKay's Home to Harlem (1928); Countee Cullen's One Way to Heaven (1932), Anna Bontemps's Black Thunder (1936); (poems and plays) Abraham Hill's On Striver's Row
  • (1933), Langston Hughes's Shakespeare in Harlem (1942) - Harlem Renaissance, see This Was Harlem by Jervase Anderson (1981), Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance by Houston A. Baker Jr (1987) - Note: Hughes's 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers,' written on a train taking him to Mexico, has been among the most quoted of all poems by black poets. Selected works: THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS, 1921 ( poem published in the journal Crisis) THE GOLD PIECE, 1921 THE WEARY BLUES, 1926 (incl. poem Dream Variation) FINE CLOTHES TO THE JEW, 1927 NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER, 1930 THE NEGRO MOTHER AND OTHER DRAMATIC RECITATIONS, 1931 MULE BONE, 1931 (with Zora Neale Hurston) DEAR LOVELY DEATH, 1931 THE DREAM KEEPER, 1932 SCOTTSBORO LIMITED, 1932 POPO AND FIFINA, 1932 (with Arna Bontemps) THE WAYS OF THE WHITE FOLKS, 1934 LITTLE HAM, 1935 (play) THE MULATTO, 1935 (play) EMPEROR OF HASITI, 1936 (play) TROUBLED ISLAND, 1936 (play) WHEN THE JACK HOLLERS, 1936 (play) FRONT PORCH, 1937 (play) JOY TO MY SOUL, 1937 (play) SOUL GONE HOME, 1937 (play) DON'T YOU WANT TO BE FREE?, 1938 (play) A NEW SONG, 1938 THE EM-FUEHRER JONES, 1938 (play) LIMITATIONS OF LIFE, 1938 (play) LITTLE EVA'S END, 1938 (play) THE ORGANIZER, 1939 (play) THE BIG SEA, 1940 SHAKESPEARE IN HARLEM, 1941 THE SUN DO MOVE, 1942 (play) WAY DOWN SOUTH, 1942 (screenplay) FOR THIS WE FIGHT, 1943 (play) FREEDOM'S PLOW, 1943 JIM CROW'S LAST STAND, 1943 LAMENTS FOR DARK PEOPLES, 1944 FIELDS OF WONDER, 1947 translation: Jacques Roumain's Masters of Dew, 1947 (with M. Cook) translation: Nicholas Guillen's Cuba Libre, 1948 (with F. Carruthers) ONE-WAY TICKET, 1949
  • THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO, 1949 (ed.) SIMPLE SPEAKS HIS MIND, 1950 THE BARRIES, 1950 (play) MONTAGE OF A DREAM DEFERRED, 1951 (incl. poem Harlem) LAUGHING TO KEEP FROM CRYING, 1952 THE FIRST BOOK OF NEGROES, 1952 SIMPLE TAKES A WIFE, 1953 FAMOUS AMERICAN NEGROES, 1954 THE FIRST BOOK OF RHYTHMS, 1954 FAMOUS NEGRO MUSIC MAKERS, 1955 THE FIRST BOOK OF JAZZ, 1955 THE SWEET FLY-PAPER OF LIFE, 1955 I WONDER AS I WANDER, 1956 THE FIST BOOK OF WEST INDIES, 1956 A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF NEGRO IN AMERICA, 1956 (with Milton Meltzer) translation: Selected Poems of Gabriel Mistral, 1957 SIMPLE STAKES A CLAIM, 1957 SIMPLY HEAVEN, 1957 (play) TAMBOURINES GO TO GLORY, 1958 FAMOUS NEGRO HEROES OF AMERICA, 1958 THE BOOK OF NEGRO FOLKLORE, 1958 (ed. with Arna Bontemps) THE FIRST BOOK OF AFRICA, 1960 THE BEST OF SIMPLE, 1961 ASK YOUR MAMA, 1961 BLACK NATIVITY, 1961 (play) GOSPEL GLORY, 1962 FIGHT FOR FREEDOM: THE STORY OF THE NAACP, 1962 FIVE PLAYS BY LANGSTON HUGHES, 1963 (plays) JERICO JIM CROW, 1963 SOMETHING IN COMMON, 1963 SIMPLE'S UNCLE SAM, 1965 THE PRODIGAL, 1965 (play) SOUL YESTERDAY AND TODAY, 1965 (play) ANGELO HERDNON-JONES, 1966 (play) MOTHER AND CHILD, 1966 (play) OUTSHINES THE SUN, 1966 (play) TROUBLE WITH ANGELS, 1966 (play) THE PANTHER AND THE LASH, 1967 BLACK MAGIC, 1967 (with Milton Meltzer) BLACK MISERY, 1969 GOOD MORNING REVOLUTION, 1973 THE COLLECTED POEMS OF LANGSTON HUGHES, 1994 THE PASTEBOARD BANDIT, 1997 ( illustrated by Peggy Turley) COLLECTED WORKS OF LANGSTON HUGHES, 2001-2002 (18 vols.)