The Life of Langston Hughes, 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America

The Life of Langston Hughes, 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America

by Arnold Rampersad
     
 

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February 1, 2002 marks the 100th birthday of Langston Hughes. To commemorate the centennial of his birth, Arnold Rampersad has contributed new Afterwords to both volumes of his highly-praised biography of this most extraordinary and prolific American writer.
In young adulthood Hughes possessed a nomadic but dedicated spirit that led him from Mexico to Africa

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Overview

February 1, 2002 marks the 100th birthday of Langston Hughes. To commemorate the centennial of his birth, Arnold Rampersad has contributed new Afterwords to both volumes of his highly-praised biography of this most extraordinary and prolific American writer.
In young adulthood Hughes possessed a nomadic but dedicated spirit that led him from Mexico to Africa and the Soviet Union to Japan, and countless other stops around the globe. Associating with political activists, patrons, and fellow artists, and drawing inspiration from both Walt Whitman and the vibrant Afro-American culture, Hughes soon became the most original and revered of black poets. In the first volume's Afterword, Rampersad looks back at the significant early works Hughes produced, the genres he explored, and offers a new perspective on Hughes's lasting literary influence.
Exhaustively researched in archival collections throughout the country, especially in the Langston Hughes papers at Yale University's Beinecke Library, and featuring fifty illustrations per volume, this anniversary edition will offer a new generation of readers entrance to the life and mind of one of the twentieth century's greatest artists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Excellent....Mr. Rampersad [leaves] you eager to see what he makes of the rest of the story, and confident that his second volume will be as good as his first."—John Gross, The New York Times

Sacred Fire
This two-volume set is the definitive biography of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of the Harlem Renaissance. Beginning with a family history linked to abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, John Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry, and the anti-slavery settlement of Lawrence, Kansas, author Rampersad delves deeply into the context of Hughes's life. From his tumultuous relationship with his father to his travels to the South and abroad, to the largesse and patronage he received from admirers of his work, to his life as a Harlem literary cognoscenti.

That Hughes spoke eloquently for the black masses is well known. Less known are the interesting turns and connections that brought him to recognition. In The Life of Langston Hughes, the stories abound. While on a tour of the South, and as the riveting Scottsboro case exploded onto the international scene, Hughes visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Although UNC was probably the most progressive white university in the South, for a black speaker to be featured there was extraordinary." In advance of his visit, he forwarded an essay about Scottsboro: "Let the Alabama mill-owners pay white women decent wages so they won't need to be prostitutes, he urged. And let the sensible citizens of Alabama (if there are any) supply schools for the black populace of their state, (and for the half-black, too—the mulatto children of the Southern gentlemen. [I reckon they're gentlemen]) so the Negroes won't be so dumb again. As for the jailed men—if blacks didn't howl in protest (and I don't mean a polite howl, either) then let Dixie justice (blind syphilitic as it may be) take its course." Langston "slipped in and out of Chapel Hill" before the response to the essay erupted.

This is a great biography of a complex man who lived fully in defiance of stereotypes of brutish and illiterate black manhood. His life was one of courage, adventure, and amazing creativity. Rampersad captures that life with memorable success.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The second and concluding volume of this biography of the distinguished black writer lives up to the high standard set by its critically praised predecessor. It follows Hughes from the 1940s, a discouraging period when he was ostracized as a radical and feared his career was over, through the 1950s and '60s, when he took hope from the civil rights movement yet felt alienated from younger, angrier writers such as James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones. The author, an English professor at Rutgers, astutely evaluates Hughes's complex personality: the charm that masked an essential aloofness; the intense attachments to younger men that led to a widespread assumption (never verified) that he was homosexual; above all, his love of the warmth and humor of ordinary black men and women. Rampersad is an unsparing but sympathetic analyst of Hughes's life and work; he has written an absorbing critical biography that is also a deft social history of black America in the 20th century. Photos not seen by PW. (October)
Library Journal
With this final volume of his superb biography, Rampersad comes to the racist exclusion and crippling attacks from the right that forced Hughes to scramble for a meager living. Rampersad effectively conveys not only the complex, frustrating difficulties of Hughes's work in poetry, opera, musical theater, children's books, and popular history but the rigors and humiliation of his speaking tours and tormenting trial before the McCarthy committee. Even when he was doing hackwork, the true artist in Hughes created in his Simple stories a beloved character kept brilliantly alive. With volume 1 ( LJ 8/86), this balanced, honest biography offers deep insights into a major artist's personality and work as well as a sweeping view of American culture in his lifetime. Milton Meltzer, New York

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195146424
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/28/2002
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
548,925
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.50(d)

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