The Collage Aesthetic
The Writer as Teacher
You don't make things popular just because you want them to be simple,
but because you want people to understand them. But when people under-
stand things, then they demand more. And so I think the question is, how
do you combine the advanced with the popular?
—Amiri Baraka, Conversations with Amiri Baraka
In 1952 Langston Hughes told friends that his books were getting "simpler and simpler and younger and younger."Besides describing the audience for his latest work, the statement announced Hughes's own aesthetic preferences, for it was during the 1950s that he returned to children's literature and Jesse B. Semple, producing his five "Simple" books as well as seven histories for young people.1 But the announcement also revealed the social and political circumstances that he faced as a professional African American writer. Despite an outpouring of writing in every genre and literary form at his disposal, more than a hundred appearances on the lecture circuit in the United States and Canada, and canonization
1. Hughes quoted in Berry, Langston Hughes, 320. The works of children's literature
are The First Book of Negroes (1952), The First Book of Rhythms (1954), Famous American
Negroes (1954), Famous Negro Music Makers (1955), The First Book of Jazz (1955), The First
Book of the West Indies (1956), and Famous Negro Heroes of America (1958).