Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the twentieth-century African American poet Langston Hughes, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources

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Recommended Introductions

"Langston Hughes." Excerpts from reputable critical articles on Langston Hughes. Contents include brief discussions of The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (1926); The Negro Speaks of Rivers; The Weary Blues; Harlem; The Cat and the Saxophone; Negro; Justice; Mulatto; Lynching Song; The Bitter River; Ku Klux; Letter from Spain; About the Spanish Civil War; A Hughes Spanish Civil War Broadside; Hughes, Negroes in Spain (1937); Goodbye Christ; Christ in Alabama; Claude McKay's The Negro's Tragedy and Langston Hughes's Christ in Alabama; Let America Be America Again; Flight; Madam and the Phone Bill; About Come to the Waldorf-Astoria; White Shadows; A Right-Wing Anti-Hughes Flier; The Backlash Blues; Hughes in the 1930s; To Negro Writers (1935); Three Hughes Book-Jackets; Hughes Bibliography; Three Songs about Lynching; About Lynching; About the Great Depression. Modern American Poetry, Cary Nelson, ed.

Hammer, Langdon. "Lecture 15 - Langston Hughes." Hammer considers Hughes's poetry in connection with other high modernist poets of the early twentieth century. "The distinctive concerns of Hughes's poetic project are juxtaposed with the works of other modernists, such as Pound, Eliot, Frost, and Stevens. Hughes's interest in and innovative use of musical forms, such as blues and jazz, is explored with particular attention to their role in African-American culture, as well as their use by Hughes to forge an alternative to dominant modes of expression within the modernist canon." Begins with a discussion of "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." Lecture 15 of Professor Hammer's class at Yale, English 310: Modern Poetry, Spring 2007.

"Langston Hughes." Brief introduction, reliable text for some of Hughes's most famous poems, other poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Also "An Introduction to Langston Hughes." Extended essay on Langston Hughes's use of blues traditions and formal techniques, commentary from Afaa Weaver, discussion questions, suggested reading. Academy of American Poets.

"Langston Hughes." Encyclopedia-type introduction to the poet's themes, style, and techniques, a biography, and some of his best known poems. Also "The Black Poet as Canon-Maker: Langston Hughes, New Negro Poets, and American Poetry's Segregated Past," by poet Elizabeth Alexander. Poetry Foundation.

"Langston Hughes." An introduction and biography, by Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper, from educational publisher Gale/Cengage.

Nichols, Charles H., ed. "Langston Hughes." Teaching Langston Hughes, his themes, style, blues lyrics. From educational publisher Heath.

"Langston Hughes." A web site created by C-SPAN to accompany its American Writers series.


Rampersad, Arnold. "Hughes's Life and Career." Modern American Poetry.

Rampersad, Arnold. A review of Rampersad's The Life of Langston Hughes. Volume I: 1902-1941. I, Too, Sing America. Reviewed by Kenny J. Williams in American Literature 59, 3 pp 447-50 [jstor]

Rampersad, Arnold. "Audio Interview with Arnold Rampersad about Langston Hughes." "Intrigued by Hughes, Arnold Rampersad has researched every aspect of Hughes's life. From communist accusations to hospital problems, the trials and tribulations Hughes endured are discussed in this interview." 24 minutes, 19 Nov. 1988, at Wired for Books.

Rampersad, Arnold. On Newly Discovered Langston Hughes Poems. "Facing racism every day with the Great Depression looming, Hughes wrote these political poems on the inside covers of a book." Poetry Foundation.

Scott, Jonathan. "Advanced, repressed, and popular: Langston Hughes during the cold war." College Literature 33, 2 (Spring 2006) pp 30-51 [jstor]

Bernard, Emily, ed. "The Story of an Interracial Friendship." A review of Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964. Reviewed by Phillip M. Richards in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 34 (Winter 2001/2002) pp 132-3 [jstor]

"A Negro Intellectual Tells His Life Story." A review of Hughes's autobiographical book, The Big Sea. New York Times 25 Aug. 1940.

Maryemma, Graham. "Langston Hughes Centennial, 1902-1967." On the lasting influence of Langston Hughes in Crisis, an early publisher of his work. New Crisis Jan./Feb. 2002 [subscription service].

Information about ordering Langston Hughes: Working Towards Salvation (2003), a film by Bruce R. Schwartz, based on Hughes's autobiographical sketch, "Salvation," which appeared in his 1940 autobiography, The Big Sea, and additional biographical material.

"Langston Hughes." Brief biography. "I Hear America Singing," PBS.

Recommended Web Sites

Draft of Langston Hughes's "Ballad of Booker T." [Booker T. Washington] A digital image of the Langston Hughes's typescript, with his autograph revisions, for "Ballad of Booker T." The Langston Hughes Collection at the Library of Congress.

The Langston Hughes National Poetry Project. From a centennial symposium on Langston Hughes, streaming audio files of symposium lectures: the keynote address by Dr. Arnold Rampersad, the biographer of Langston Hughes and many presentations by authorities and specialists on Hughes. Much more is available at this excellent site, including lesson plans. Univ. of Kansas.

"Langston Hughes at 100." An online exhibit from the Beinecke Library at Yale.

Literary Criticism


Davidas, Lionel. "'I, Too, Sing America': Jazz and Blues Techniques and Effects in Some of Langston Hughes's Selected Poems." Dialectical Anthropology 26, 3/4 (2001) pp 267-72 [unreliable sub ser].

Dawahare, Anthony. "Langston Hughes's Radical Poetry and the 'End of Race.'" MELUS 23, 3 (Fall 1998) pp 21-41 [jstor].

Johnson, Patricia A.; and Walter C. Farrell, Jr.. "How Langston Hughes Used the Blues." MELUS 6, 1 (Spring 1979) pp 55-63 [jstor].

Kim, Daniel Won-gu. "'We, Too, Rise with You': Recovering Langston Hughes's African Turn 1954-1960." Kim explores Hughes's political poetry, contending that in the 1950s, "Hughes not only participated in but sought to lead the broader radicalization of the US black political imagination." African American Review Fall 2007 [questia sub ser, substantial preview].

Lenz, Günter H. "The Riffs, Runs, Breaks, and Distortions of the Music of a Community in Transition": Redefining African American Modernism and the Jazz Aesthetic in Langston Hughes's 'Montage of a Dream Deferred' and 'Ask Your Mama.' The Massachusetts Review 44, 1/2 (Spring/Summer 2003) pp 269-82 [jstor].

Miller, Marilyn. "(Gypsy) Rhythm and (Cuban) Blues: The Neo-American Dream in Guillén and Hughes." Montage of a Dream Deferred. Comparative Literature 51, 4 (Autumn 1999) pp 324-44 [jstor].

Sanders, Leslie Catherine. "'I've Wrestled with Them all My Life': Langston Hughes's Tambourines to Glory." On Langston Hughes's treatment of religious subjects. Black American Literature Forum 25, 1 (Spring, 1991) [jstor].

Smethurst, James. "Lyric Stars: Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes." In Hutchinson, George, ed. The Cambridge Companion to The Harlem Renaissance (Cambridge UP 2007). [Publisher's site, which provides an excerpt through the "Look Inside" tab.]

Fiction, Drama, & Journalism

Banks, Kimberly. "'Like a Violin for the Wind to Play': Lyrical Approaches to Lynching by Hughes, Du Bois, and Toomer" [and W.E.B. Du Bois, Jean Toomer]. On stylistic and symbolic choices in their representations of lynching in the short stories of three male African American writers. African American Review 38, 3 (Fall 2004) pp 451-65 [questia sub ser, substantial preview].

Lamb, Robert Paul. "'A Little Yellow Bastard Boy': Paternal Rejection, Filial Insistence, and the Triumph of African American Cultural Aesthetics in Langston Hughes's Mulatto." College Literature 35, 2 (Spring 2008) pp 126-53 [jstor].

Metress, Christopher. "Langston Hughes's 'Mississippi-1955': A Note on Revisions and an Appeal for Reconsideration." On Hughes's response to the murder of Emmett Till. African American Review Spring 2003 [highbeam sub ser, preview].

Miller, R. Baxter. "Reinvention and Globalization in Hughes's Stories." MELUS Spring 2005 [questia sub ser, substantial preview].

Ricks, Sybil Ray. "A Textual Comparison of Langston Hughes's Mulatto, 'Father and Son,' and 'The Barrier.'" Black American Literature Forum 15, 3 (Autumn 1981) pp 101-3 [jstor].

Thurston, Michael. "Black Christ, red flag: Langston Hughes on Scottsboro." On "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." College Literature 22, 3 (Oct. 1995) pp 30-49 [jstor].

Langston Hughes & Harlem

Blake, Susan L. "Old John in Harlem: The Urban Folktales of Langston Hughes." Black American Literature Forum 14, 3 (Autumn 1980) pp 100-4 [jstor].

Davis, Arthur P. "The Harlem of Langston Hughes's Poetry." Phylon 13, 4 (4th Qtr. 1952) pp 276-83 [jstor].

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. "Harlem on Our Minds." Critical Inquiry 24, 1 (Autumn 1997) pp 1-12 [jstor].

Keller, Frances Richardson. "The Harlem Literary Renaissance." The North American Review 253, 3 (May/June 1968) pp 29-34 [jstor].

Vogel, Shane. "Closing Time: Langston Hughes and the Queer Poetics of Harlem Nightlife." Criticism 48, 3 (Summer 2006) pp 397-425 [jstor].

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