Sunday, February 1, 2009

James Mercer Langston Hughes

This is the first Black History Month in a while when I was not responsible for putting something out in a work environment. Not that I minded necessarily, but I can actually relax and contemplate fully what I would like to say.

Black History Month is often misunderstood and vilified. Over the years, I've heard people proclaim its irrelevance, or the fact that somehow "we got stuck with the shortest month of the year." As one who believes that African American history has to be integrated into the broader American historical narrative, I still believe that there is a place for these extra curricular highlights. As was the case when Carter G. Woodson created "Black History Week," too few people of all stripes remain unfamiliar with the significant role the American black has played in American history.

I will, over the course of the month, post various stories related to black history, beginning today.

One of my favorite poets is Langston Hughes. To me, many of Hughes' poems express a need to belong, whether it was to his country or his people. He seemed to postion himself as the outsider looking in (I am sure his not being straight heightened that). But through his words, he articulated the longings of a people who had been here since the beginning. And here we are in 2009. A self identified black man is the leader of the free world. Another black man has been selected to be the leader of the other major American political party. Black folks have moved leaps and bounds, and we're finally able to sit a lot more comfortably at the American table. Please take some time to enjoy the poetry of Langston Hughes, in his own words. Today would have been his 107th birthday.

"I, Too"

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers"


Scott said...

I grew up an a southern city that has a beautiful, tree-lined boulevard called "Monument Avenue". At every intersection along Monument Avenue is a huge statue of a Confederate Civil War "hero". Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb McGruder, and maybe 10 more.

This city (Richmond) has at least two "Museums of the Confederacy".

The Confederate flag, while no longer flying over our State House, is visible on many houses and car decals. There are still people in this city and state who refer to the Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression."

If one has the temerity to point out that the primary cause these revered heroes fought so bravely for was to protect the "right" of some human beings to own other human beings, the response is usually something like, "Nonsense! Slavery was only a small part of what the war was about..."

I would love the opportunity to teach a "White History" class to some of my fellow white folks.


"I will not take 'but' for an answer."
Langston Hughes

Christine Deffendall said...

Jeffery, thank you so much for posting the videos with Langston Hughes' voice-overs. What a privilege to hear any poet read his own work, but...Mr. Hughes! Wonderful.