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Langston Hughes, Born 120 (or 121?) Years Ago

February 01, 2022

Linda Gregg, The Writer’s Almanac

Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac for reminding us of Langston Hughes’s birthday today–and for highlighting some interesting quotes from Hughes: 

“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.” 

“Through my grandmother’s stories always life moved, moved heroically toward an end. Nobody ever cried in my grandmother’s stories. They worked, or schemed, or fought. But no crying. When my grandmother died, I didn’t cry, either. Something about my grandmother’s stories (without her ever having said so) taught me the uselessness of crying about anything.”

And his AWTT portrait quote, from “Let America Be America Again:”

“Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain —
All, all the stretch of these great green states —
And make America again!”

Classical HQR radio will feature the music of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes on February 17 at noon, with a repeat Sunday, February 20 at 3 pm. This special program, “Langston Hughes – I, Too, Sing America,” comes from one of Hughes’ poems and will feature some of his compositions. His collaboration with William Grant Still is discussed, and there is an actual recording of Still in conversation with Hughes.

Although the NYT and the Smithsonian Magazine reported in 2018 that Hughes’s actual birth date is now in question, the Smithsonian article also observes that “the new information about Hughes’ possible birth date has little impact on the poet’s immense legacy, . . .”

Hughes is featured – along with 49 other truth-tellers – in Robert Shetterly’s new book Portraits of Racial Justice, from New Village Press.

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