Despite the reprobation of his father and disinterest of his mother, the young Langston Hughes was doggedly determined to make his living as a man of letters writing for and about African Americans. Ultimately, he bequeathed to the world a treasure-trove of literature. While it is his poetry that leaps immediately to mind (and rightfully so, for he published more than 860 poems in his lifetime), his other works include short stories, children's stories, opera libretti, a history of the NAACP, two volumes of autobiography, and most importantly to this present book, over forty plays or skits. Indeed, his body of dramatic work is so prodigious that noted Hughes scholar Dr. Arnold Rampersad remarked in March 1992, at a Lincoln University memorial, that if Hughes "had never written a poem . . . his plays alone . . . could secure him a place in Afro-American literary history." 1 In this book, Dr. Joseph McLaren confirms Dr. Rampersad's assessment and advances Langston Hughes as a pioneer and dramatic force in African American theatre.
Aptly entitled Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943, Dr. McLaren's work particularly underscores Hughes's ability to infuse his dramatic works, as he did his poetry, with a celebration of Black folk culture while simultaneously protesting racial injustice. Moreover, Hughes accomplished this synthesis in the midst of a rift between the two preeminent African American dramatic theorists of the time, W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke, precisely over the role of drama as art or as a tool of protest. Alain Locke had proposed in his articles, "Steps Toward the Negro Theatre", ironically published in DuBois