In High Point, Langston Hughes made sales, not waves

“Our engagement here in High Point has been most pleasant. This morning, I read to the various colored schools, and at the white high school. Sold gangs of books….”
–From a letter from Langston Hughes to Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP (Dec. 8, 1931).

As noted by Nicholas Graham, Hughes’ eventful stay in Chapel Hill has been well chronicled. Less so his subsequent visit to High Point. I haven’t been able to find an account of his appearance at “the white high school” (High Point High), but the student newspaper at (white) High Point College covered what seems to have been a thoroughly uninflammatory reading at (black) William Penn High School:

“Langston Hughes, called by some ‘the greatest living negro poet,’… explained his compositions by telling the stories and incidents which gave rise to them….

“[His] love poems expressed the colored peoples’ life of romance. Most of the poems were short, with a clever sense of realism and emotion.

“Spiritual or religious poems…expressed the negroes’ emotions. Just opposite his spirituals are his ‘blues’ poems. They represent the emotional life of the negro, dealing with his troubles and loneliness….

“Perhaps his best known poem is ‘The Negro Mother,’in which he pays tribute to the colored race of all past ages and predicts for ‘the colored children’ happier and more worthy achievements.

“[Professor of religion] Dr. P. E. Lindley…reports a very enjoyable and delightful evening. He considers Hughes a very prominent rising negro scholar and poet.”

 

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