Langston Hughes

On this day in 1902, Langston Hughes was born in Missouri. For four decades Hughes chronicled the black experience and perspective in powerful poetry, fiction, nonfiction and children's books. The Nation published his influential essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (1926), in which Hughes advocated racial pride and independent artistry, giving the Harlem Renaissance its due. He enrolled at Columbia University and finished his degree at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, in 1926.

His first book of poetry was The Weary Blues, his first novel Not Without Laughter (1930), and his first book of short stories The Ways of White Folks. His play Mulatto (1935) ran successfully on Broadway. His autobiography, The Big Sea, came out in 1940, followed in 1956 with I Wonder As I Wander. Among his many other books was Jim Crow's Last Stand (1943). His satire on corruption in black storefront churches, Tambourines to Glory (1963), was not popular with black clergy. Hughes, who traveled widely all his life, had visited the Soviet Union, and was forced to appear before McCarthy's "unAmerican" committee in 1953. Hughes wrote a signature column for 20 years for the Chicago Defender. D. 1967.

Listen, Christ,
You did alright in your day, I reckon--
But that day's gone now.
They ghosted you up a swell story, too,
Called it Bible--
But it's dead now.
The popes and the preachers've
Made too much money from it.
They've sold you to too many.

. . .

Christ Jesus Lord God Jehovah,
Beat it on away from here now.
Make way for a new guy with no religion at all--
A real guy named
Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin
worker ME . . . .

—-Langston Hughes, "Goodbye Christ," "Rage, Repudiation, and Endurance: Langston Hughes's Radical Writings," The Langston Hughes Review (1993)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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