I've been obsessed by the relation between the individual and the collective. In writing about Langston Hughes, the subject became even more interesting to me, both because of my topic and because of the writing and researching itself. A writer's work is solitary, but without other people no writer can survive for long. The first person I'd like to thank is Tim Brennan—a truly great thinker, writer, and teacher who has been my mentor and friend for the past two decades, whose central place in my life has been constant despite many changes in each of our lives. It's been impossible for to me to think about this book without also thinking of him and his influential work.
Amiri Baraka graciously agreed in 1992 to be a member of my doctoral examination committee at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and his guidance during that formative period of my life left a lasting mark on me. Besides being one the world's most important poets and intellectuals, Amiri is the purest spirit I'll ever know.
Melba Joyce Boyd and I share the same place of origin—the southwest side of Detroit. She has not only read my manuscript with patience and care but before that gave me a wonderful welcome-back present in 1996 by offering me several courses to teach in African American literature and culture at Wayne State University, where she was the chair of Africana studies.