The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2

By Arnold Rampersad | Go to book overview

2

JIM CROW'S LAST STAND
1941 to 1943

The nations they is fightin'
And the nations they done fit.
Sometimes I think that white folks
Ain't worth a little bit.
No, m'am!
Ain't worth a little bit ...

"Southern Mammy Sings," 1941

AFTER A BRIEF STAY in Los Angeles, where he charmed the guests at a League of American Writers dinner, Langston boarded the "El Capitan" train for a pleasant ride through Arizona and snow-dusted New Mexico and on to Kansas and eventually Illinois. On the morning of November 20 he finally reached Chicago. Clearly he was in no hurry to return to New York; his plan was to stay in Chicago for at least a few weeks. Although his application to the Rosenwald Fund had mentioned only in passing the chance of theater work there, Langston evidently had decided to make a fresh start in the Midwest, before challenging New York. Assiduously preparing his way in Chicago was Arna Bontemps, who had been living there for the past six years with his wife Alberta and their five children. Knowing his friend's pinched financial state, Bontemps had secured for him a comfortable and also free room at a large new South Side settlement house. Alberta Bontemps promised Langston free board, and the Rosenwald Fund agreed to make an office available to him at its headquarters, 4901 Ellis Avenue. Langston needed all the help he could get. "Tell Horace I'll take him up on that bed, Alberta on board (you know, once in a while) and the Rosenwalds on that office," he thanked Arna Bontemps. "But who has an overcoat and some earmuffs to lend me?"

His office at the Rosenwald Fund proved to be spacious enough and quiet, and his welcome was warm at the Good Shepherd Community Center, at the comer of 5Ist Street and South Parkway and proud of its position as "the World's Largest Negro Settlement House." Directing the organization was Horace Cayton, an intense but affable black sociologist and disciple of Robert Park of the University of Chicago, and a friend of Langston's since 1932, when they

-32-

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The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Life of Langston Hughes - I Dream a World *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Still Here 1941 3
  • 2 - Jim Crow''s Last Stand 1941 To 1943 32
  • 3 - Simple Speaks His Mind 1943 To 1944 61
  • 4 - Third Degree 1944 To 1945 88
  • 5 - Street Scene 1945 To 1947 108
  • 6 - Heart on the Wall 1947 To 1948 128
  • 7 - On Solid Ground 1948 To 1950 146
  • 8 - In Warm Manure 1951 To 1953 189
  • 9 - Out from under 1953 To 1956 223
  • 10 - Making Hay 1957 To 1958 263
  • 11 - You Are the World 1958 To 1960 288
  • 12 - Ask Your Mama! 1960 To 1961 314
  • 13 - In Gospel Glory 1961 To 1963 341
  • 14 - Blues for Mister Backlash 1963 To 1965 364
  • 15 - Final Call 1965 To 1966 386
  • 16 - Do Nothing till You Hear from Me 1966 To 1967 404
  • Afterword 426
  • Abbreviations 436
  • Notes 437
  • Acknowledgments 493
  • Index 499
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