The Life of Langston Hughes, 1941-1967: I Dream a World by Arnold Rampersad, Langston Hughes |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Life of Langston Hughes, 1941-1967: I Dream a World

The Life of Langston Hughes, 1941-1967: I Dream a World

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by Arnold Rampersad, Langston Hughes
     
 

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February 1, 2002 marks the hundredth anniversary of Langston Hughes's birth. To commemorate this occasion, Arnold Rampersad has contributed new Afterwords to both volumes of his highly-praised biography of this most extraordinary American writer. In this second volume of his enormously acclaimed biography, Rampersad traces Hughes's life from the humiliations of

Overview

February 1, 2002 marks the hundredth anniversary of Langston Hughes's birth. To commemorate this occasion, Arnold Rampersad has contributed new Afterwords to both volumes of his highly-praised biography of this most extraordinary American writer. In this second volume of his enormously acclaimed biography, Rampersad traces Hughes's life from the humiliations of 1940-41, with his career in jeopardy, to his death in 1967, by which time he was revered not only as the dean of Afro-American writers but also as a world-renowned artist whose poems, plays, and stories had profoundly influenced writers in Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. This volume shows Hughes re-examining his vision of art and radicalism during World War II, when he contributed steadily to the national war effort even as he relentlessly attacked segregation in his country. It recounts his surveillance by the FBI and his hounding by right-wing forces, including Senator Joe McCarthy, who eventually forced him to testify about his radical years.

Through all this period, Rampersad reveals, Hughes never lost sight of his greatest goal: to be an artist in words, committed to black life. His desire resulted in books of verse and fiction that reflected his love of jazz and the blues; in operas in which he collaborated with Kurt Weill, William Grant Still, and Jan Meyerowitz; in musical plays that first brought black gospel to the American stage; in a dozen books for children; and in programs for radio and television featuring stars such as Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. His passion for life and literature brought him into fellowship -- and sometimes sharp conflict -- with a wide range of writers, including Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka.

In his Afterword to this second volume, Rampersad details the fresh challenges he faced as a biographer covering Hughes's retreat from radicalism around 1941, and the sustained attacks on him during the McCarthy era. He charts Hughes's renewal of himself as a poet and writer with a deep commitment to African-Americans, and investigates the author's desire for harmony and justice for all peoples. In addition, Rampersad explores the controversial matter of Hughes's sexuality and the possibility that, despite a lack of clear evidence, Hughes was homosexual. Exhaustively researched in archival collections throughout the country, especially in the Langston Hughes papers at Yale University's Beinecke Library, and featuring fifty illustrations, this anniversary edition offers a new generation of readers entrance to the life and mind of one of the twentieth century's greatest artists.

Editorial Reviews

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
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 (on Volume I)

"Throughout this comprehensive and enthralling account of Hughes's life and his development as a writer, Rampersad offers a precise assessment of his work and its importance...This may be the best biography of a black writer we have had."—David Nicholson, The Washington Post Book World

"An exquisite orchestration of the fully lived life."—Michael S. Harper, The Boston Globe

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195061697
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
09/21/1989
Edition description:
Older Edition
Pages:
528
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.19(h) x 1.33(d)

Meet the Author

Arnold Rampersad is Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. He is the author of Days of Grace: A Memoir with Arthur Ashe, Jackie Robinson: A Biography, and he edited Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.

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