Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1936
Langston Hughes, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1936

James Mercer LANGSTON HUGHES (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist.  He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry.  Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.  He famously wrote about the period that "the negro was in vogue" which was later paraphrased as "when Harlem was in vogue".

Both of Hughes's paternal and maternal great-grandmothers were African-Americans.  His maternal great-grandfather was white and of Scottish descent.  A paternal great-grandfather 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.

Langston Hughes 1943 Photo by Gordon Parks 

Langston Hughes, 1943. Photo by Gordon Parks

In 1869, the widowed Mary Patterson Leary married again, this time into the elite and 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 Anti-Slavery Society in 1858.  Charles Langston later moved to Kansas, where he was served as an educator and a dedicated activist for the African American cause.  Charles and Mary had a daughter named Caroline.  Caroline who would later give birth to 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).  Hughes grew up in a series of small Midwestern 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 traveled seeking employment, young Langston Hughes was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas.  Through the black American oral tradition, Mary Langston used her knowledge of black activists to ignite in her grandson a lasting sense of racial pride. Young Hughes spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas.  After the death of his grandmother,  Hughes went to live with family friends, James and Mary Reed, for two years.  Due to instabilty, his childhood was not an entirely happy one, but it strongly influenced the poet he would become.

 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

Later, Hughes lived again with his mother Carrie in LincolnIllinois.  She had remarried when he was still an adolescent, and eventually they lived in ClevelandOhio, where he attended high school.  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, 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

 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

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 that Hughes would study engineering, so long as he could attend Columbia.  With his tuition provided, Hughes left his father after little over a year.  While at Columbia in 1921, Hughes managed to maintain a B+ grade average despite often displaying more interest in the city of Harlem, than on his studies at Columbia.  He left the university in 1922 because of racial prejudice. He chose however, to continue his poetry.

 Hughes worked various odd jobs, before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malonein 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe. In Europe, Hughes left the S.S.Malone for a temporary stay in Paris.

 Langston Hughes in his 20s

Langston Hughes in his 20s

During his time in Paris 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 various odd jobs before gaining a white-collar 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 for much of his life.  During the 1930s, Hughes became a resident of Westfield, New Jersey.  Some academics and biographers today believe that Hughes was gay and included gay 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".  If he were in fact gay, Hughes, however, remained closeted and was never openly gay

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 stating that his love of black men is evidenced in a number of reported unpublished poems to an alleged black male lover.

Death

The medallion under which Langston Hughes ashes are interred - Arthur Schomburg Center 

The medallion under which Hughes' ashes are interred, Arthur Schomburg Center.

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 at the entrance to an auditorium named after Hughes.  The design on the floor is an African cosmogram titled “Rivers”.  The title is taken from his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Within the center of the cosmogram is the line: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers".

My soul has grown deep like the rivers

“I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I danced in the Nile when I was old
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.”

-- "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (1920) in The Weary Blues (1926)

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 first and last published poems appeared in The Crisis.  More of his poems were published in The Crisis than in any other journal. 

Hughes's life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, alongside those of his contemporaries, Zora Neale HurstonWallace ThurmanClaude McKayCountee CullenRichard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas.  Except for McKay, all the aforementioned black intellectuals worked together also to create the short-lived magazine Fire!! which was devoted to younger Negro artists.

Hughes and his contemporaries had different goals and aspirations than the black middle class.  They criticized the men they referred to as the ‘midwives’ of the Harlem Renaissance: W. E. B. Du BoisJames weldon Johnson, and Alain LeRoy Locke, as being overly complacent in their desires for social change-exemplified by the way they assimiliated eurocentric values and culture.

 Langston Hughes with black students in Atlanta during Negro Histoy Week

Langston Hughes with black students in Atlanta during Negro Histoy Week

Hughes and his colleagues tried to depict the "low-life" in their art, that is, the real lives of blacks in the lower social-economic strata.  They were critical of the divisions and prejudices based on skin color within the black community. Hughes wrote what would be considered their 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 identified as 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 priority 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.  Hughes feelings shine out in his poetry and his pride in the African American identity and its diverse culture is felt in each line of his poem. . Hughes is quoted as saying, "My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind."  He confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded black America’s image of itself.  He was a “people’s poet” who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality, as expressed in the poem “My People”

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.”

Hughes stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism devoid of self-hate.  His beliefs united people of African descent and Africa across the globe to encourage pride in their diverse black culture and black aesthetic.  Hughes was one of the few prominent black writers to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists. His African-American racial consciousness and cultural nationalism would influence many foreign black writers, such as Jacques RoumainNicolás GuillénLéopold 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 the example he set with his social views, Hughes had an important technical influence on future greats with the way he used folk and jazz rhythms as the basis of his poetry of racial pride.

Langston Hughes during Interview at The Downtown Community School Manhattan 

Langston Hughes during Interview at The Downtown Community School, Manhattan

In 1930, Langston Hughes’ first novel, “Not Without Laughter”, won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature.  At a time before widespread arts grants, Hughes gained the support of private patrons and he was supported for two years prior to publishing this novel.  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.

In 1931, Hughes helped form the "New York Suitcase Theater" with playwright Paul Peters, artist Jacob Burck, and writer (soon-to-be underground spy) Whittaker Chambers, an acquaintance from Columbia.  In 1932, he was part of a board to produce a Soviet film on "Negro Life" with Malcolm CowleyFloyd Dell, and Chambers.  Maxim Lieber became his literary agent from 1933–1945 then from 1949-1950. (Chambers and Lieber worked in the underground together around 1934-1935.)

Hughes's first collection of short stories was published in 1934 with “The Ways of White Folks”.  He finished the book at a Carmel, California cottage, leased to Hughes for a year by Noel Sullivan- another patron. These stories are made up of a series of vignettes revealing the humorous and tragic interactions between whites and blacks. They are marked by a general pessimism about race relations, as well as a sardonic realism.

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes 1934 

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, 1934

In 1935 Hughes received a Guggenheim Fellowship.  The same year that Hughes established his theater troupe in Los Angeles, he realized a long held ambition by co-writing the screenplay for the movie Way Down South. He believed his failure to gain more work in the lucrative movie trade was due to racial discrimination within the industry.

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.  Although Hughes seldom responded to requests to teach at colleges, in 1947 he decided to teach at Atlanta University.  In 1949, he spent three months at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools as a visiting lecturer. 

He wrote novels, short stories, plays, poetry, operas, essays, and children’s pieces.  With the encouragement of his best friend and writer, Arna Bontemps, and patron and friend, Carl Van Vechten, Hughes wrote two volumes of autobiography, “The Big Sea” and “I Wonder as I Wander”.  He also translated several works of literature into English.

Langston Hughes - The Big Sea 

Langston Hughes, The Big Sea

During the mid 1950s and into the 1960’s, Hughes' popularity among the younger generation of black writers varied, even 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 that some new writers, including James Baldwin, were lacking in such a pride, were over intellectual in their work, and were occasionally vulgar.

Hughes wanted young black writers to be ‘objective’ about their race, but not to scorn it or ignore the topic. 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 vindictive in their work.  Hughes's work “Panther and the Lash”, published posthumously in 1967, was intended to show solidarity with these writers, albeit written with more skill and lacking the anger showed by some toward whites.  He continued to have admirers among many of the younger generation of black writers.  He often helped writers by offering advice and introducing them to other influential persons in the literature and publishing communities.  One of these burgeoning writers was Alice Walker.  She looked upon Hughes as a hero and an example to be emulated within her own work.  Another young black writer whom Hughes inspired was Loften Mitchell.  Mitchell observed the following 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, which reflect his affinity for Communism, have been collected in two volumes published by the University of Missouri Press. The most notable of these is the poem entitled "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. This was a rare priviledge, as those parts of the world were usually closed to Westerners.  While there, he met Robert Robinson, an African American living in Moscow and unable to leave.  In Turkmenistan, Hughes met and befriended the Hungarian author Arthur Koestler, then a Communist sympathizer who was given permission to travel there.  Hughes also managed to travel to China and Japan before returning to the States.

Langston Hughes - A New Song 

Langston Hughes, A New Song

Langston Hughes’ poetry was frequently published in the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) newspaper, and he was involved in many initiatives supported by Communist organizations, such as the drive to free the Scottsboro Boys, though this was trully a black cause. 

Partly as a show of support for the (Spanish) 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 such as the John Reed Clubs and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights.  He was more of a sympathizer than an active participant.  He joined the American Peace Mobilization in 1940 working to keep the U.S. from participating in World War II.

Hughes understandably did not initially favor black American involvement in the war because of the persistence of discriminatory Jim Crow laws, racial segregation, and disfranchisement throughout the South. But he came to support the war effort and black American participation after deciding that war service would aid the black struggle for civil rights at home. Scholar Anthony Pinn has noted that Hughes, together with Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, was a humanist "critical of belief in God.  They provided a foundation for nontheistic participation in social struggle.”  Pinn also found that non-religious writers are often ignored in the narrative of American history- a tale that chiefly credits the civil rights movement to the work of affiliated Christian people.

Langston 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, to determine his communist affiliation.  He stated, "I never read the theoretical books of socialism or communism or the Democratic or Republican parties for that matter, and so my interest in whatever may be considered political has been non-theoretical, non-sectarian, and largely emotional and born out of my own need to find some way of thinking about this whole problem of myself."  Following his testimony, Hughes distanced himself from Communism.  He was rebuked by some on the Radical Left who had previously supported him.  Over time, Hughes left his most radical poems behind.  He excluded them from his “Selected Poems” (1959).

 Langston Hughes - Collected Poems

Langston Hughes, Collected Poems

Representation in other media

Hughes's life has been portrayed in film and stage productions since the late twentieth century.  In “Looking for Langston” (1989), British filmmaker Isaac Julien claimed Hughes as a  gay icon.  Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had historically been ignored or downplayed.  Film portrayals of Hughes include Gary LeRoi Gray's role as a teenage Hughes in the short subject film “Salvation” (2003) (based on a portion of his autobiography “The Big Sea”), and Daniel Sunjata as Hughes in the “Brother to Brother” (2004).  “Hughes' Dream Harlem”, a documentary by Jamal Joseph, examines Hughes' works and environment.  “Paper Armor” (1999) by Eisa Davis and “Hannibal of the Alps” (2005) by Michael Dinwiddie are plays by African-American playwrights that address Hughes's sexuality.  Spike Lee's film “Get on the Bus”, included a gay, black character, played by Isaiah Washington, who invokes the name of Hughes and punches a homophobic character, saying, "This is for James Baldwin and Langston Hughes."

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 the James Weldon Johnson Collection within Yale University also hold archives of Hughes' work.

Honors and awards

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 byRoy DeCarava. 1955
  • Tambourines to Glory1958
  • 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, withMilton 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, anopera, in 1950)
  • Troubled Island, withWilliam 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
  • Black Misery. Illustrated by Arouni. 1969, reprinted by Oxford University Press, 1994.

 

 

Brought to you by Paris-based black artist Ealy Mays

 

 

REFERENCES / SOURCES / LINKS


  • 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. Article inThe Nation, 23 June 1926.
  • African American literature
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Langston Hughes Society
  • Négritude
  • Pan-Africanism
  • Francis, Ted. (2002).Realism in the Novels of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Faith Berry,Langston Hughes, Before and Beyond Harlem, Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983; reprint, Citadel Press, 1992, p. 1, access date 24 July 2010.
  • Richard B. Sheridan, "Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas",Kansas State History, Winter 1999, accessed 15 December 2008.
  • Laurie F. Leach,Langston Hughes: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, pp. 2–4.
  • Ohio Anti-Slavery Society
  • William and Aimee Lee Cheek, "John Mercer Langston: Principle and Politics", in Leon F. Litwack and August Meier, eds.,Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century, University of Illinois Press, 1991, pp. 106–111.
  • "African-Native American Scholars". African-Native American Scholars. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  • West,Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, 2003, p. 160.
  • 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."  Rampersad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002).The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 620.
  • The poem "Aunt Sues’s Stories" (1921) is an oblique tribute to his grandmother and his loving Auntie Mary Reed, a family friend. Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 43.
  • Imbued by his grandmother with a duty to help his race, Hughes identified with neglected and downtrodden black people all his life, and glorified them in his work.  Brooks, Gwendolyn, (October 12, 1986). "The Darker Brother", TheNew York Times.
  • Langston Hughes Reads His Poetrywith commentary, audiotape fromCaedmon Audio
  • "Langston Hughes, Writer, 4, Dead", (May 23, 1967).The New York Times.
  • Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (1940), pp. 54–56.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, Review:The Darker Brother, TheNew York Times, 12 October 1986. Quote: 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.
  • Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 56.
  • PoemorTo. F.S.first appeared inThe Crisisin May 1925, and was reprinted inThe Weary BluesandThe 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 Jamaica 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 Communist activities and illegal alien status in 1951.  Hughes corresponded with Smith up until 1961, when Smith died. Berry, p. 347.
  • In 1926, a patron of Hughes, Amy Spingarn, wife of Joel Elias Spingarn who was president of theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP), provided $300 for him to attend Lincoln University. Rampersad.vol. 1, 1986, p. 122-23.
  • In November 1927,Charlotte Osgood Mason, (“Godmother” as she liked to be called), became Hughes's major patron. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 156.
  • "Mule Bone: Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston's Dream Deferred of an African-American Theatre of the Black Word."African American Review, March 22, 2001. Accessed March 7, 2008. "  In February 1930, Hurston headed north, settling in Westfield, New Jersey.  Godmother Mason (Mrs. Rufus Osgood Mason, their white protector) had selected Westfield, safely removed from the distractions of New York City, as a suitable place for both Hurston and Hughes to work."
  • " J.L. Hughes Will Depart After Questioning as to Communism".The New York Times, July 25, 1933.
  • Nero, Charles I. (1997). "Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures", In Martin Duberman (Ed.),Re/Membering Langston, p. 192. New York University Press
  • Yale Symposium,Was Langston Gay?commemorating the 100th birthday of Hughes in 2002.
  • Schwarz, pp. 68–88.
  • Although Hughes was extremely closeted, some of his poems may hint at homosexuality. These include: "Joy," "Desire", "Cafe: 3 A.M.," "Waterfront Streets", "Young Sailor", "Trumpet Player", "Tell Me", "F.S." and some poems inMontage of a Dream Deferred. Langston Hughes page[1]. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
  • ...Cafe 3 A.M. was against gay bashing by police, and Poem for F.S. which was about his friend Ferdinand Smith. Nero, Charles I. (1999), p. 500.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • Aldrich, (2001), p. 200.
  • "Referring to men of African descent, Rampersad writes "...Hughes found some young men, especially dark-skinned men, appealing and sexually fascinating. (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 fascinated him.  Rampersad, vol. 2, 1988, p. 336.
  • "His fatalism was well placed.  Under such pressure, Hughes's sexual desire, such as it was, became not so much sublimated as vaporized.  He governed his sexual desires to an extent rare in a normal adult male; whether his appetite was normal and adult is impossible to say.  He understood, however, that Cullen and Locke offered him nothing he wanted, or nothing that promised much for him or his poetry.  If certain of his responses to Locke seemed like teasing (a habit Hughes would never quite lose with women, or, perhaps, men) they were not therefore necessarily signs of sexual desire; more likely, they showed the lack of it.  Nor should one infer quickly that Hughes was held back by a greater fear of public exposure as a homosexual than his friends had; of the three men, he was the only one ready, indeed eager, to be perceived as disreputable." "Rampersad,The Life of Langston Hughes, Vol I, p. 69.
  • Sandra West states: Hughes's "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.
  • Whitaker, Charles.Langston Hughes: 100th birthday celebration of the poet of Black America,Ebony magazine, April 2002.
  • "The Negro Speaks of Rivers: First published inCrisis(June 1921), p. 17.  Included inThe New Negro(1925),The Weary Blues,Langston Hughes Reader, andSelected Poems.  The poem is dedicated to W. E. B. Du Bois inThe Weary Blues, but it is printed without dedication in later versions.  Rampesand, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002).  InThe Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, pp. 23 & 620, Knopf.
  • Rampesand, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). InThe Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. pp. 23 & 620, Knopf.
  • "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Audio file, Hughes reading. Poem information from Poets.org
  • Hughes "disdained the rigid class and color differences the 'best people' drew between themselves and Afro-Americans of darker complexion, of smaller means and lesser formal education. Berry, 1983 & 1992, p. 60.
  • "....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.
  • Rampersad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002).The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p. 3.
  • Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 418.
  • West. 2003, p. 162.
  • "My People" First published asPoeminCrisis(October 1923), p. 162, andThe Weary Blues(1926).  The title "My People" was collected inThe Dream Keeper(1932) and theSelected Poems of Langston Hughes(1959).  Rampersad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002).  InThe Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. pp. 36 & 623, Knopf.
  • Rampersad. vol. 2, 1988, p. 297.
  • Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 91.
  • Mercer Cook, African-American scholar of French culture wrote: "His (Langston Hughes) work had a lot to do with the famous concept ofNégritude, of black soul and feeling, that they were beginning to develop." Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 343.
  • Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 343.
  • Charlotte Mason generously supported Hughes for two years. She supervised his writing his first novel,Not Without Laughter(1930). Her patronage of Hughes ended about the time the novel appeared. Rampersad. "Langston Hughes", inThe Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p. 207.
  • Tanenhaus, Sam (1997).Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. Random House. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  • Tanenhaus, Sam (1997).Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. Random House. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  • [|Chambers, Whittaker] (1952).Witness. New York: Random House. pp. pp. 44–45 (includes description of Lieber), 203, 266fn, 355, 365, 366, 388, 376–377, 377fn, 394, 397, 401, 408, 410.ISBN52-5149.
  • Noel Sullivan, after working out an agreement with Hughes, became a patron for him in 1933. Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 277.
  • Sullivan provided Hughes with the opportunity to completeThe Ways of White Folks(1934) in Carmel, California. Hughes stayed a year in a cottage Sullivan provided. Rampersad.Langston Hughes. InThe Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature,2001, p. 207.
  • Rampersad (2001).Langston Hughes, p. 207.
  • Co-written withClarence Muse, African-American Hollywood actor and musician. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, pp. 366-69
  • Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 207.
  • Langston’s misgivings about the new black writing were because of its emphasis on black criminality and frequent use of profanity. Rampersad, vol. 2, p. 207.
  • 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-balance with frustration." Rampersad, p. 119, vol. 2.
  • Langston eagerly 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.
  • "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.
  • Hughes's 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.
  • Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 409.
  • The end of "A New Song" was substantially changed when it was included inA New Song(New York:International Workers Order, 1938).
  • "Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives". Alba-valb.org. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
  • Langston Hughes (2001),Fight for Freedom and Other Writings. p. 9,University of Missouri Press.
  • 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.
  • Kimberly Winston, Religious News Service, "Blacks say atheists were unseen civil rights heroes"],Washington Post, 22 February 2012.
  • "h2g2 - Langston Hughes — Poet". BBC. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
  • Jean Carlson(2007).[2]. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  • "National Register Information System".National Register of Historic Places.National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
  • Asante, Molefi Kete (2002).100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  • Aldrich, Robert (2001).Who's Who in Gay & Lesbian History.Routledge.ISBN 0-415-22974-X
  • 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". InOn the Cross of the South, p. 150; &Zero Hour, pp. 185–186.Citadel Press.ISBN 0-517-14769-6
  • Hughes, Langston (2001). "Fight for Freedom and Other Writings on Civil Rights" (Collected Works of Langston Hughes,Vol 10). In Christopher C. DeSantis (ed.).Introduction, p. 9.University of Missouri PressISBN 0-8262-1371-5
  • 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
  • Nero, Charles I. (1997). "Re/Membering Langston: Homphobic Textuality and Arnold Rampersad's Life of Langston Hughes". In Martin Duberman (Ed.),Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures,p. 192.New York University Press, 1997ISBN 0-8147-1884-1
  • Nero, Charles I. (1999). "Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics". In Larry P. Gross & James D. Woods (Eds.),In Free Speech or Hate Speech: Pornography and its Means of Production, p. 500.Columbia University PressISBN 0-231-10447-2
  • Nichols, Charles H. (1980).Arna Bontempts-Langston Hughes Letters, 1925–1967, Dodd, Mead & Company.ISBN 0-396-07687-4
  • Ostrom, Hans(1993).Langston Hughes: A Study of the Short Fiction, New York: Twayne.ISBN 0-8057-8343-1
  • Ostrom, Hans(2002).A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia, Westport:Greenwood Press, 2002.ISBN 0-313-30392-4
  • 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", InLangston 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

 

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