The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2

By Arnold Rampersad | Go to book overview

7

ON SOLID GROUND
1948 to 1950

... Too many years
Climbing up the hill—
About out of breath,
I got my fill.

I'm gonna plant my feet
On solid ground
If you want to see me,
Buddy, come down!
"Down Where I Am," 1949

"I WOULD RATHER have a kitchenette in Harlem," Langston insisted with feeling, "than a mansion in Westchester." In the summer of 1948, his days of studios, of borrowed beds and shared rooms, ended once and for all as he joined Toy and Emerson Harper at 20 East I27th Street—"Aunt Toy's house," as he discreetly told one and all. In the preceding weeks, the indefatigable Mrs. Harper had transformed the old property by supervising the painting and repapering of its aging walls, and freshly resodding the yard—"there is even a beautiful lawn in the back garden under tall trees," Langston wrote a friend, "cool and restful, sort of like some of the gardens in Greenwich Village."

Since she intended to make the property pay for itself by housing roomers, Mrs. Harper had allocated the space precisely. At street level, in the "English" basement (there was also a "sub-basement") was their living room, complete with a piano; the kitchen and a spacious dining area were on that floor. On the level above, reached also by a flight of steps from the street, she had set up a bedroom for herself and Emerson. Up another flight was a nondescript suite of rooms. Then, on the third floor above the "English" basement, where bright windows faced the tops of the cool, green trees, was Langston's two-room suite: Jesse B. Semple's own "third floor rear." Here, at last, Langston had ample space for his growing library of books, his manuscripts, clippings, photographs, memorabilia, and correspondence, and work tables for himself and his helpers.

Langston had no particular interest in elegance, but Mrs. Harper knew ex

-146-

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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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