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Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

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 diversebody 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 Weary Blues, 1926

Fine Clothes to the Jew, 1927

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

Let America Be America Again, 1938

Shakespeare in Harlem, 1942

Freedom's Plow, 1943

Fields of Wonder, 1947

One-Way Ticket, 1949

Montage of a Dream Deferred, 1951

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

Not Without Laughter, 1930

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


[Related: 30 Days of 100 Novels]


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