Cover image for The political plays of Langston Hughes
Title:
The political plays of Langston Hughes
Author:
Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.
Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
xi, 221 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1210 Lexile.
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780809322954

9780809322961
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PS3515.U274 A6 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Central Library PS3515.U274 A6 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Among the most influential poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes is perhaps best remembered for the innovative use of jazz rhythms in his writing. While his poetry and essays received much public acclaim and scholarly attention, Hughes' dramas are relatively unknown. Only five of the sixty-three plays Hughes scripted alone or collaboratively have been published (in 1963).

 

Published here, for the first time, are four of Hughes' most poignant, poetic, and political dramas, Scottsboro Limited , Harvest (also known as Blood on the Fields ), Angelo Herndon Jones , and De Organizer . Each play reflects Hughes' remarkable professionalism as a playwright as well as his desire to dramatize the social history of the African American experience, especially in the context of the labor movements of the 1930s and their attempts to attract African American workers. Hughes himself counted prominent members of these leftist groups among his close friends and patrons; he formed a theater group with Whittaker Chambers, prompting an FBI investigation of Hughes and his writing in the 1930s. These plays, while easily read as idealistic propaganda pieces for the left, are nonetheless reflective of Hughes' other more influential and studied works.

 

The first scholar to offer a systematic study of Hughes' plays, Susan Duffy provides an informed introduction as well as a detailed analysis of each of the four plays. Duffy also establishes that De Organizer , a collaboration with noted jazz pianist and composer James P. Johnson (who also wrote its score) was indeed performed by the Labor Stage.

 

By making these forgotten texts available, and by presenting them within a scholarly discussion of 1930s leftist political movements, Duffy seeks to spark a renewed interest in Langston Hughes as an American playwright and political figure.  


Summary

Among the most influential poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes is perhaps best remembered for the innovative use of jazz rhythms in his writing. While his poetry and essays received much public acclaim and scholarly attention, Hughes dramas are relatively unknown. Only five of the sixty-three plays Hughes scripted alone or collaboratively have been published (in 1963).

Published here, for the first time, are four of Hughes most poignant, poetic, and political dramas, "Scottsboro Limited," "Harvest "(also known as "Blood on the Fields"), "Angelo Herndon Jones," and "De Organizer." Each play reflects Hughes remarkable professionalism as a playwright as well as his desire to dramatize the social history of the African American experience, especially in the context of the labor movements of the 1930s and their attempts to attract African American workers. Hughes himself counted prominent members of these leftist groups among his close friends and patrons; he formed a theater group with Whittaker Chambers, prompting an FBI investigation of Hughes and his writing in the 1930s. These plays, while easily read as idealistic propaganda pieces for the left, are nonetheless reflective of Hughes other more influential and studied works.

The first scholar to offer a systematic study of Hughes plays, Susan Duffy provides an informed introduction as well as a detailed analysis of each of the four plays. Duffy also establishes that "De Organizer," a collaboration with noted jazz pianist and composer James P. Johnson (who also wrote its score) was indeed performed by the Labor Stage.

By making these forgotten texts available, and by presenting them within a scholarly discussion of 1930s leftist political movements, Duffy seeks to spark a renewed interest in Langston Hughes as an American playwright and political figure.

"


Author Notes

Langston Hughes, February 1, 1902 - May 22, 1967 Langston Hughes, one of the foremost black writers to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance, was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Mo. Hughes briefly attended Columbia University before working numerous jobs including busboy, cook, and steward. While working as a busboy, he showed his poems to American poet Vachel Lindsay, who helped launch his career. He soon obtained a scholarship to Lincoln University and had several works published.

Hughes is noted for his depictions of the black experience. In addition to the black dialect, he incorporated the rhythms of jazz and the blues into his poetry. While many recognized his talent, many blacks disapproved of his unflattering portrayal of black life. His numerous published volumes include, "The Weary Blues," "Fine Clothes to the Jew," and "Montage of a Dream Deferred." Hughes earned several awards during his lifetime including: a Guggenheim fellowship, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant, and a Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.

Langston Hughes died of heart failure on May 22, 1967.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Joseph McLaren is Professor of English at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. He is the editor of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Volume 13, Autobiography: The Big Sea and the author of Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The man who asked "What happens to a dream deferred?" contended with his own deferred dreams. Hughes wrote or coauthored 63 dramatic works, yet his forays into theater have received much less attention than his poetry and prose. A brilliant poet and superb essayist, he was, however, only a servicable playwright, if these four political plays are indicative. He too willingly exaggerates to make his political point, particularly in the agitprop one-act, Scottsboro, Limited. Even when he begins well, he twists his art to make the left-leaning message clear; for instance, his best-known play, Angelo Herndon Jones, begins with a series of stark, startling portraits of Depression-era city life but ends in manipulative, ham-fisted propaganda, complete with optional singing of "The Internationale." Still, Hughes' plays are rarely published, and Susan Duffy's intelligent, exhaustively researched commentaries on each play in the book redeem it by putting Hughes' theater in the context of the rest of his remarkable life. --Jack Helbig


Library Journal Review

This volume provides a glimpse into Harlem Renaissance poet Hughes's activities as a leftist playwright. These politically charged plays (Scottsboro, Limited; Harvest; Angelo Herndon Jones; De Organizer) deal with labor woes, union infiltration, and the influence of radical politics on minorities in the 1930s. To get a clear view of Hughes's politics, Duffy (liberal studies, California Polytechnic Inst.; The Political Left in the American Theatre of the 1930s) recommends reading this work in conjunction with Arnold Rampersad's two-volume The Life of Langston Hughes (LJ 8/86; LJ 9/15/88) he also prefaces each play with an analysis of Hughes's motivation and some insight into his life at the time of the writing. A summary explains Hughes's supposed Communist affiliation. Duffy has filled a void by bringing together these historically valuable plays and initiating focus upon this neglected area of Hughes's career. Highly recommended for all academic and research libraries.--David M. Lisa, Mercyhurst Coll. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

The man who asked "What happens to a dream deferred?" contended with his own deferred dreams. Hughes wrote or coauthored 63 dramatic works, yet his forays into theater have received much less attention than his poetry and prose. A brilliant poet and superb essayist, he was, however, only a servicable playwright, if these four political plays are indicative. He too willingly exaggerates to make his political point, particularly in the agitprop one-act, Scottsboro, Limited. Even when he begins well, he twists his art to make the left-leaning message clear; for instance, his best-known play, Angelo Herndon Jones, begins with a series of stark, startling portraits of Depression-era city life but ends in manipulative, ham-fisted propaganda, complete with optional singing of "The Internationale." Still, Hughes' plays are rarely published, and Susan Duffy's intelligent, exhaustively researched commentaries on each play in the book redeem it by putting Hughes' theater in the context of the rest of his remarkable life. --Jack Helbig


Library Journal Review

This volume provides a glimpse into Harlem Renaissance poet Hughes's activities as a leftist playwright. These politically charged plays (Scottsboro, Limited; Harvest; Angelo Herndon Jones; De Organizer) deal with labor woes, union infiltration, and the influence of radical politics on minorities in the 1930s. To get a clear view of Hughes's politics, Duffy (liberal studies, California Polytechnic Inst.; The Political Left in the American Theatre of the 1930s) recommends reading this work in conjunction with Arnold Rampersad's two-volume The Life of Langston Hughes (LJ 8/86; LJ 9/15/88) he also prefaces each play with an analysis of Hughes's motivation and some insight into his life at the time of the writing. A summary explains Hughes's supposed Communist affiliation. Duffy has filled a void by bringing together these historically valuable plays and initiating focus upon this neglected area of Hughes's career. Highly recommended for all academic and research libraries.--David M. Lisa, Mercyhurst Coll. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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