A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes

A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes

A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes

A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes has been an inspiration to generations of readers and writers seeking a passionate, intelligent, and socially responsible art. In this volume, Steven C. Tracy has gathered a broad range of critics to produce an interdisciplinary approach to the important historical and cultural elements reflected in Hughes's work. Their essays, all previously unpublished, place Hughes in the context of Harlem, his preferred geographical and spiritual home base, as well as the larger political, social, musical, and artistic milieu of his rapidly changing times. They examine Hughes's negotiation of his own moral and ethical ground in a complex, sometimes hostile world, and demonstrate the remarkable triumph of a sensitive, creative human being who refused to be overwhelmed by the forces of discrimination, pessimism, and bitterness that claimed so many writers of his generation. This volume, with its historical essays, brief biography, and illustrated chronology, provides a concise yet authoritative portrait of one of America's and the world's most beloved writers.


O sancta simplicitas! O holy simplicity! —John Huss

I love to hear my baby call my name, She calls so easy and so doggone plain. —blues lyric


“So what are you going to do the other twelve weeks of the semester?” cracked one of my colleagues ten years ago with hearty laughs all around, in response to my announced intention to teach a fourteen-week course on the works of Langston Hughes. The remark and the response to it revealed not only an ignorance of the extent of Hughes's work—his output was voluminous— but also something more insidious and troublesome. There is the notion among some literary academics that Hughes is, well, too simple, too obvious, too shallow. What can one say about such plain and straightforward writing beyond, perhaps, paraphrases or expressions of sympathy? “We want befuddlement, prolixity, circumlocution, obscurity, ” they say. “We want not-Hughes.”

Part of the problem is that the response to American litera-

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