Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes

By Jonathan Scott | Go to book overview
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The Poet as Journalist

Aesthetics of Black Equality

We use the word radical and use it descriptively to say radical journalism.
Well, a lot of people get afraid when they hear that: "Ooh, radical!" Radical
just means, "from roots," and that means we should be in touch with the
roots of our people, to speak their truths, to reflect their realities and to give
their voice to the world.

—Mumia Abu-Jamal, Live from Death Row

That Langston Hughes could imagine America in terms of the mestizo rather than through the prevailing ideology of American pluralism reveals the presence of a different way of thinking about race in the United States. In assessing Hughes's legacy as the Dean of Black Letters, literary critics have often focused on his passionate love of the blues aesthetic and the artistic labors he devoted to making the blues into a nationally popular literature. But this love of the blues explains only one side of Hughes's creative activity. Such a one-sided focus has the tendency to racialize a multivalent body of writing that is known outside the United States for precisely the opposite reasons, namely, as a rejection of "race provincialism" (as Du Bois referred to conservative kinds of black nationalism), as an embrace of intellectual worldliness, and as a search for new aesthetic


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