Although Langston Hughes was the first African American writer to earn his living from writing and public appearances, black critics were particularly harsh on his work. Many black intellectuals felt that Hughes was portraying their life as unattractive. When Hughes book Fine Clothes for a Jew was published The New York Amsterdam News ran the headline LANGSTON HUGHES—THE SEWER DWELLER (“Biography: Langston Hughes”). But Hughes was not deterred by the criticism, he was writing for the people, not the intellectuals. His writing emphasized black pride and rejected what he saw as “false integration” (Cummings 517). Many people were uncomfortable with Hughes portraying black life in such a imperfect way. Many African Americans wanted to elevate the status of blacks during this time and saw Hughes’ work as a betrayal to their race (“Biography:Langston Hughes”). Hoyt W. Fuller said that Hughes “chose to identify with plain black people—not because it required less effort and sophistication, but precisely because he saw more truth and profound significance in doing so” (“Biography: Langston Hughes”).
In Hughes poem “Let American Be America Again” the line American never was America to me is especially powerful (Cummings 519). Hughes has shattered the myth of American dream and shown how it has failed for millions of those who are not part of the freedom and opportunity that this country is supposed to offer. The other line that I found to be riveting was Except the dream that’s almost dead today, (Cummngs 521). Hughes wrote theses words in 1938. He believed that America was not a place where everyone was free to follow their dreams and achieve equality. What would he think today? Is the dream almost dead? Is the American dream a myth or is there still hope that anyone can rise from the bottom and achieve prosperity and equality in America?
“Biography: Langston Hughes.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Magazine, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/langston-hughes>.
Cummings, Michael S. “Let American Be America Again (1938)”. American Political Thought. 7th ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015. 519-521. Print.
Image: Lora Jost, Artist 2001 Langston Hughes Mural (Lawrence, KS) http://lorajost.org/?page_id=66