Langston Hughes

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Quite often, Langston Hughes is thought of primarily as a poet. Popular historical appraisals of Hughes tend to focus more on his poetry and do not place as much emphasis on his work as a playwright, novelist, and even newspaper columnist. Huhges’s novel Not Without Laughter is apart of the “100 Novels Collection” and mirrors the thematic representations found in his poetry and other works. 
One common theme in his writing, though, is the struggles of working class people. Hughes probes the lives of working class people in his writing to offer glimpses of certain economic, political, and social barriers that confront America’s proletariat. His fascination with leftist political ideologies creeps into his work and exposes his disapproving attitude of the racially charged capitalist culture and his yearning for America to be more encompassing of minorities, especially black people. 

Hughes’s diverse body of writing explores the origins of the oppressive governmental systems and practices that sought to keep black people and other minorities disadvantaged. His work points to the larger history of slavery and its byproducts as having damaging effects on the working class, leaving them at a disadvantage when trying to assimilate and participate as full citizens in American society.
Below, I have provided a brief glimpse of his work.
Poetry collections
The Negro Mother and Other Dramatic Recitations, 1931
Dear Lovely Death, 1931
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, 1932
Scottsboro Limited: Four Poems and a Play, 1932
Shakespeare in Harlem, 1942
Freedom’s Plow, 1943
Fields of Wonder, 1947
One-Way Ticket, 1949
Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, 1958
Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz, 1961
The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times, 1967
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, 1994
Novels and short story collections
The Ways of White Folks, 1934
Simple Speaks His Mind, 1950
Laughing to Keep from Crying, 1952
Simple Takes a Wife, 1953
Sweet Flypaper of Life, photographs by Roy DeCarava. 1955
Tambourines to Glory, 1958
The Best of Simple, 1961
Simple’s Uncle Sam, 1965
Something in Common and Other Stories, 1963
Non-fiction books
The Big Sea, 1940
Famous American Negroes, 1954
I Wonder as I Wander, 1956
A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, with Milton Meltzer, 1956
Famous Negro Heroes of America, 1958
Fight for Freedom: The Story of the NAACP, 1962
Major plays by Hughes
Mule Bone, with Zora Neale Hurston, 1931
Mulatto, 1935 (renamed The Barrier, an opera, in 1950)
Troubled Island, with William Grant Still, 1936   
Little Ham, 1936   
Emperor of Haiti, 1936   
Don’t You Want to be Free? 1938   
Street Scene, contributed lyrics, 1947   
Tambourines to glory, 1956   
Simply Heavenly, 1957   
Black Nativity, 1961   
Five Plays by Langston Hughes, 1963
Jericho-Jim Crow, 1964   
Works for children
Popo and Fifina, with Arna Bontemps, 1932   
The First Book of the Negroes, 1952
The First Book of Jazz, 1954
Marian Anderson: Famous Concert Singer, with Steven C. Tracy 1954
The First Book of Rhythms, 1954
The First Book of the West Indies, 1956
First Book of Africa, 1964
Black Misery, Illustrated by Arouni, 1969

One thought on “Langston Hughes

  1. Kenton, there is an American woman in San Jose who never heard of Langston Hughes. How is that possible? I am blown away.

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