On this day, in 1967, American writer and social-activist, Langston Hughes died of prostate cancer at the age of 65.
Hughes is widely considered to be one of the most important black writers of the 20th century.
In 1926 he published “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” in The Nation, an essay that would influence the Harlem Renaissance for years to come.
Poetry, plays, short stories, nonfiction and memoirs… Hughes wrote it all. One of our favorite poems by Mr. Hughes will always be “A Negro Speaks of Rivers”. Hughes was speaking specifically of the Kaw River, which figures heavily in recollections of his youth, spent in Lawrence, Kansas.
Hughes strongly believed that “black art” should represent the experiences and culture of the black “folk.” His work was infused with blues and jazz culture and reflected the soul of the urban working class at that time. Some of his more famous writing associated with the Harlem Renaissance include the collections of poems, The Weary Blues (1926) and Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927); the novel Not Without Laughter (1930); and a personal favorite of ours, a collection of short stories called The Ways of White Folks (1934).
His influence, even today, upon not only “black art” but on the whole of politically charged writers and artists, is undeniable.
Today, think about your culture… your roots. Because in the end, it’s not really about whether you’re black or white anymore… (or at least, it shouldn’t be) … it’s about what you, as a voice of your generation, have to say about social injustice across the world… it’s about what you have to say about your own identity and how it fits into the environment and time in which we live now. Write for your people today… whoever they may be.
Write on in Peace, Mr. Hughes!
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