Saturday, April 10, 2021

Langston Hughes

It’s been on my mind for years, trying to find the name of the writer of the “Off the Corner” column that appeared in The Facts, a weekly black newspaper in Seattle. It would have been the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. And I’m curious if the columns have been collected, as a book or in an archive, or if they are otherwise accessible. 

I was thinking about “Off the Corner” heavy this past week as I was reading through some of Langston Hughes’ prolific and prodigious output of literature, specifically an autobiography and a book of poetry from early in his career. 

The poetry is The Weary Blues, cover by Miguel Covarrubias. 

Here are two of my favorites: 


The calm,

Cool face of the river

Asked me for a kiss.



We cry among the skyscrapers

As our ancestors

Cried among the palms in Africa

Because we are alone,

It is night,

And we’re afraid.


The autobiography is The Big Sea. 

The title refers to the time Hughes worked on freighters, and there are interesting stories that run counter to my impression of him as strictly an urban being. In addition, there are amusing and lively descriptions of his life in Mexico as a young man. But, being an aficionado of the Harlem Renaissance, I was thrilled by and most enjoyed Hughes’ plentiful anecdotes from that time, about the people and the events, artsy and gossipy. He was right there in the middle of it, a big name among big names. 

There’s also a story about traveling through the South with Zora Neale Hurston (apparently during a happier period of their relationship) as she was collecting anthropological studies and artifacts relating to voodoo and other alternate practices and customs of the rural folk. 


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  1. I've heard the name, but knew nothing about Mr. Hughes until this posting. I heard the poem on the Wikipedia site. I could see what he was writing. He was prolific as a poet, novelist, playwright and movie apprearance. The samples you provided of his poetry are wonderful.

    I know little of the Harlem Renaissance except for a documentary about the history of the Apollo Theater.

    A recent PBS documentary about Ernest Hemingway referred to Langston Hughes because he and Hemingway were covering Spain's civil war.

    Thanks again.

  2. A followup to another aspect of the post regarding "The Facts" publication. The newspaper is still in business. I tried to do a search to see if Washington University had an archive of the newspaper. They don't. You may have tried this already but give a call and ask about the column.

  3. You're welcome and thank you for the research re "The Facts." I need to make that call. The Harlem Renaissance is one of two historical periods in America I would like to have experienced, the other being the Los Angeles jazz scene of the 1950's.