Such was the blues
of Langston Hughes xxxx
What was the blues
of Langston Hughes?
Brazilian painter Luc√≠lio de Albuquerque (1877-1939): M√£e Preta (Black Mother), 1912
Like democracy, this page is always under reconstruction
Photo: Carl Van Vechten
Jazz & Literature | PRX | Jeff Haas with Sascha Feinstein
‚ÄúLooks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you —
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.‚ÄĚ
— Langston Hughes, Selected Poems
“My chief literary influences have been Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman. My favorite public figures include Jimmy Durante, Marlene Dietrich, Mary McLeod Bethune, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Marian Anderson and Henry Armstrong … I live in Harlem, New York City. I am unmarried. I like ‘Tristan,’ goat’s milk, short novels, lyric poems, heat, simple folk, boats and bullfights; I dislike ‘Aida,’ parsnips, long novels, narrative poems, cold, pretentious folk, buses and bridges.”
– Langston Hughes
(Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary)
Fall 2013 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor
Dr. Pettway is the Fall 2013 Langston Hughes Professor and visiting in the Spanish and Portuguese Department where he is teaching two classes. Since 1977 the professorship has brought scholars in a range of disciplines to campus in honor of Langston Hughes, the African American writer who lived in Lawrence ages 1 to 12 (1903-1916). Professor Pettway is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at Bates College where he teaches classes and conducts research in Cuban Cultural Studies, Hispanophone Caribbean Literature and Nineteenth Century Latin American letters. He earned his Ph.D. in Hispanic Cultural Studies at Michigan State University. Professor Pettway‚Äôs research can be best described as a literary excavation of Afro-Cuban colonial literature that seeks to gather dispersed fragments of the past in order to define and reconstitute racial and religious subjectivities embedded in the text. His book-length project,¬†Afro-Cuban Literature in a Society of Dead Poets: Race, Religion and Ritual in the Age of Revolution¬†is an analysis of the politics of race and religion in the poetry, narrative, correspondence and trail records of Juan Francisco Manzano and Gabriel de la Concepci√≥n Vald√©s, the most prolific black literary writers in colonial Cuba. Dr. Pettway argues that black writers used Catholicism as subterfuge to inscribe an Afro-Caribbean religiosity that transculturated Cuban literature and posited a broad project of emancipation.
Spring 2013 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor
David G. Holmes, Professor
English and Director of African American Studies at Pepperdine University
David G. Holmes is Professor of English and Director of African American Studies at Pepperdine University. The author of Revisiting Racialized Voice: African American Ethos in Language and Literature, some of his articles have appeared in College English, Rhetoric Review and the award-winning anthology Calling Cards. His current interests include African American expressive culture, political rhetoric, political theology, religious rhetoric and rhetorics of racism. His major project focuses on remapping the rhetorical narratives of the Birmingham mass meetings of 1963. A frequent presenter at the CCC and RSA, he has held offices in the Conference on College Composition and Communication and has served on the editorial board for the CCC journal. He recently received the Howard A. White Award for teaching excellence at Pepperdine.
Spring 2012 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor
Dr. Tammy Kernodle, Musicologist
Associate Professor of Musicology at Miami University School of Fine Arts
Dr. Tammy L. Kernodle, Associate Professor of Musicology (Miami University School of Fine Arts), graduated cum laude with a BM in choral music education and piano from Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia.Ms. Kernodle received a MA and PhD in Music History from Ohio State University. Her scholarship has focused mainly on various genres of African American music, American music and jazz. She has served as the Scholar in Residence for the Women in Jazz Initiative at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and has lectured extensively on the operas of William Grant Still, the life and religious compositions of jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams. Her work has appeared in Musical Quarterly, American Music Research Journal, and a Jane Bernstein’s anthology addressing the contributions of women to music entitled Women’s Voices Across Musical Worlds. She is the author of the biography Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams, (Northeastern University Press) which chronicles the life and music of Williams, whose career in jazz spans six decades.
James Baldwin on reading Hughes’ poetry
(Yale University Library)
Langston Hughes in 1925
Langston Hughes in 1939
Langston Hughes in 1940
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Through compromise and fear.
February 1, 1902~May 22, 1967
A pack of smokes, a desk, a lamp, a typewriter, a telephone, and a nimble-fingered Langston Hughes
James P. Johnson | 1894-1955 Master stride pianist and Harlem composer of “Carolina Shout” and “The Charleston,”"You’ve Got to Be Modernistic,” “Snowy Morning Blues,” symphonic scores, and further classics.
in tribute to James P. Johnson & Langston Hughes
New York, you know, has its New Yorks,
Manhattan her Queens, the Bronx
keepers of flames with all their names intact.
Now that’s a fact. Upside it, though,
you’ll put your heart and everything
you know or thought you knew of snow.
When Snowy Morning Blues plays James P. Johnson’s
game of catch-me-if-you-can, you can. He could, too.
New York ain’t no last word, you know.
Nothing’s what it used to be. And you, the you who sees
out past the end of the world, this snow, this wee wind-
fall he fells us with under eaves the way we all fall
under suspicion in detective movies.
Blam! Blame it on the blues, blame it on a blizzard.
Diamonded, grounded in its ice cream crisscross,
snow makes you take to the country again, harmonica in hand,
craving the guitar of a pianistic You-Gotta-Be-Modernistic
genius — you can’t get into this. Let snow tell its own story.
Let the blues roll on. Let snow fall right on time this time
blue, blank, blackening the city-within-a-city christened
in Dutch: Harlem, Haarlem,
— Al Young
Langston Hughes, the great American poet who inspired the Harlem Renaissance, spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. Authors Denise Low and T.F. Pecore Weso assemble photos & new research about Lawrence sites associated with Langston Hughes. Hughes lived with his grandmother in Lawrence much of the time from his birth in 1902 until his grandmother‚Äôs death in 1915. Because of the efforts of Lawrence preservationists, many of the structures are still standing.
LANGSTON HUGHES at PAL
(Perspectives in American Literature):
A Research and Reference Guide
An Ongoing Project
¬© Paul P. Reuben
Langston Hughes, the busboy-poet, Washington, DC, early 1920s
¬ę Read the 1967 NY Times obituary account of how busboy on-duty Langston Hughes got “discovered” after he slipped three poems under poet Vachel Lindsay’s luncheon plate at the Wardman Park Hotel, where young Hughes worked. ¬Ľ
Visit the website of DC’s Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and gathering place, where people can discuss issues of social justice and peace. Each Busboys and Poets location should enhance the community — allowing us to bring together a diverse clientele reflective of the surrounding neighborhoods. Busboys and Poets creates an environment where shared conversations over food and drink allow the progressive, artistic and literary communities to dialogue, educate and interact. Busboys and Poets is a community gathering place.
First established in 2005, Busboys and Poets was created by owner Anas “Andy” Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist and restaurateur. After opening, the flagship location at 14th and V Streets, NW (Washington DC), the neighboring residents and the progressive community, embraced Busboys, especially activists opposed to the Iraq War. Busboys and Poets is now located in three distinctive neighborhoods in the Washington Metropolitan area and is a community resource for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers.
by Langston Hughes
Clean the spittoons, boy.
Clean the spittoons.
The steam in hotel kitchens,
And the smoke in hotel lobbies,
And the slime in hotel spittoons:
Part of my life.
Two dollars a day.
Hey, boy! A nickel,
A dollar, Two dollars
Buys shoes for the baby.
House rent to pay.
Gin on Saturday,
Church on Sunday.
Babies and gin and church and women and
Sunday all mixed up with dimes and dollars
and clean spittoons and house rent to pay.
A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord,
Bright polished brass like the cymbals
Of King David’s dancers,
Like the wine cups of Solomon.
A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord.
A clean bright spittoon all newly polished –
Come ‘ere, boy!
¬© Estate of Langston Hughes
This spittoon-shaped poem first appeared in New Masses, December 1926; reprinted in Fine Clothes to the Jew, 1927.
Al Young comments:
Reading in my late teens I Wonder As I Wander — Langston Hughes’ autobiographical follow-up to The Big Sea – I was enthralled and inspired by the tales he weaves of his travels throughout the U.S., Mexico, Cuba, Europe, the USSR, Soviet Asia, and China. One of Hughes’ lingering memoirs describes a voyage that he and 20 other African Americans took to Russia during the Great Depression to make a movie called Black and White. While his 1956 account of this episode does not match up with documents lately uncovered in the U.S. and in Russia, Hughes’ socio-romantic flashback lives on in imagination. This sunny picture invites us to peer into the faces of some amazingly contemporary-looking passengers, who made that fabled crossing: Langston Hughes with his friends aboard the Europa-Bremen, June 17, 1932. Seated front center from left to right are Louise Thompson Patterson and Dorothy West. On board ship was also Ralph Bunche, who was visiting Paris with Alain Locke.
Photograph courtesy of Yale University Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Hughes poses with neighborhood kids in the cramped, flowering confines of what they called “Our Block’s Childrens Garden” — and long before seed-leasing and genetic modification became commonplace.