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Jan 19 – A Poet More People Should Remember – Langston Hughes

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James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

Like many African-Americans, Hughes had a complex ancestry. Both of Hughes’ paternal great-grandmothers were enslaved Africans, and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners in Kentucky. According to Hughes, one of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller of Henry County, said to be a relative of statesman Henry Clay. The other putative paternal ancestor whom Hughes named was Silas Cushenberry, a slave trader of Clark County.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langston_Hughes

Some critics thought he was a communist homosexual who spent time in Europe, Russia, China, Japan and Korea before returning to the United States. One biographer, Arnold Rampersad, saw him as a passive, asexual man who showed love and respect for black men and women. In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote plays, short stories, several nonfiction works and served as a weekly newspaper columnist for twenty years.

Here is one of his poems, reprinted from this month’s Monastic Way, along with a couple of follow-up discussion questions:

The Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, wrote about dreams, how important it was to have them and what happens to dreams suppressed or deferred:


What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore––
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over––
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Write an answer to the poet’s question: What happens to a dream deferred? Try to use an example from your own life.” https://www.joanchittister.org/sites/default/files/monastic_way/2022-12/JanuaryMonasticWay2023.pdf

Langston Hughes @ handsupunited.org