Magazine article Ebony

The Living Langston: Poet Laureate of Black America Honored at 89th Anniversary Celebration

Magazine article Ebony

The Living Langston: Poet Laureate of Black America Honored at 89th Anniversary Celebration

Article excerpt

He was the poet of people, of Black people. He had the colors, curses, dreams and tribulations of Black people in his blood, and the talked our talk, rhymed our rhymes and sang our blues in a language that spoke to all people and all ages.

His name was Langston Hughes, and he was, as the NAACP noted, in awarding him the Spingarn Medal, "the poet laureate of Negro people." He had known rivers, ditches, dives; had known hustlers, winos, dreamers, and old Black mothers of enormous dignity and strength. He spoke of these things, and others, in 62 major works, and when he died on May 22, 1967, he had become a part of the Harlems he loved. The poet was cremated and his ashes wandered, in a manner of speaking, for 24 years before they were returned to Harlem for celebration and entombment at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. At the celebration on the 89th anniversary of his birth, celebrants recalled the living Langston and danced on his tomb, fulfilling the requirements of "the ancient rite of ancestral return" and the wishes of the poet, who said in a poem that he wanted his mourners to rejoice and to wear red.

Here, in honor of his birthday, are five of his poems:

When Sue Wears Red

When Susanna Jones wears red Her face is like an ancient cameo Turned brown by the ages. Come with a blast of trumpets,

Jesus! When Susanna Jones wears red A queen from some time-dead Egyptian night Walks once again. Blow trumpets, Jesus! And the beauty of Susanna Jones in red Burns in my heart a love-fire sharp like pain. Sweet silver trumpets,

Jesus! …

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