LANGSTON HUGHES by Milton Meltzer


A Biography
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"To my mind it is the duty of the younger Negro artist. . . to change through the force of his art that old whispering 'I want to be white,' hidden in the aspiration of his people, to 'Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro--and beautiful!'" That was the twenty-four-year-old Hughes writing in The Nation in 1926 and it is an early sign of an integrity that he maintained throughout his life. Meltzer collaborated twice with the late poet/author, and he offers not only his own recollections of conversations but also the memories of many others who knew the man. Hughes did not have a typical ancestry or childhood (descendant of free men who retained their status, son of a self-exiled lawyer unable to practice in white U.S.A.) and the early household shifts are recounted with a minimum of imputed youthful thoughts. The wanderlust that took him all over the world shades to a slightly bitter tonality in the later years, especially with the increasing objections to his Simple stories. Yet few deny the timeless and still timely appeal, the realistic expression of his poetry; many lines thread this biography, including the refrain (probably inspired by a Du Bois title) from "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" that foreshadows the current preoccupation with "soul." The casual but forceful thrust of his poetry, a recurrent concern for the mulatto, his tremendous versatility, the uncompromising posture are affirmed in a highly sympathetic but nevertheless reliable account of his life.
Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1968
ISBN: 0815203187
Page count: 281pp
Publisher: T.Y. Crowell
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1968


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