Langston Hughes in Chapel Hill

Several loyal readers of North Carolina Miscellany have written to ask for more information about Langston Hughes’s visit to Chapel Hill, which I’d mentioned in an earlier post.

Hughes describes his visit to the town in “Color at Chapel Hill,” a short chapter in The Langston Hughes Reader (New York, 1958). Hughes came to the UNC campus in 1931 after being invited by playwright Paul Green and sociology professor Guy B. Johnson. The visit was the source of controversy even before the poet arrived when two of his pieces were published in a local literary journal. Hughes spoke before a full crowd on campus and later dined at a local restaurant with a group of white students, only learning later that he had been the first African American to eat in the dining room of a downtown restaurant. Chapel Hill restaurants would not be formally integrated until the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964.

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