Cover image for Vintage Hughes
Vintage Hughes
Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
xi, 194 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.U274 A6 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



Arguably the most important writer to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s, Langston Hughes was a great poet and a shrewd and lively storyteller. His work blends elements of blues and jazz, speech and song, into a triumphant and wholly original idiom.

Vintage Hughes includes the poems "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "I, Too," "The Weary Blues," "America," "Let America Be America Again," "Dream Variations," "Young Sailor," "Afro-American Fragment," "Scottsboro," "The Negro Mother," "Good Morning Revolution," "I Dream a World," "The Heart of Harlem," "Freedom Train," "Song for Billie Holliday," "Nightmare Boogie," "Africa," "Black Panther," "Birmingham Sunday," and "UnAmerican Investigators"; and three stories from the collection The Ways of White Folks : "Cora Unashamed," "Home," and "The Blues I'm Playing."

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)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

The latest Vintage Reader caps a generous sampling of the African American writer's poems with three sharp stories from The Ways of White Folks (1934). The selection of poems-- spanning from the career-launching "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," published in the NAACP magazine The Crisis when Hughes was 19, to his highly politicized and polemical last collection, The Panther and the Lash (1967)-- emphasizes Hughes as, first, the voice of Harlem and, later, of African American consciousness. Fortunately, the selection is seasoned with antiwar poems that know no ethnicity, such as "Comment on War" ("Let us kill off youth / For the sake of truth") and "War" ("The face of war is my face. / The face of war is your face"). As those poems' opening lines demonstrate, throughout his career Hughes' poetic style was a model of clarity achieved through simple, accurate diction. His prose was similarly styled, and that gives the heartbreaking, enraging incidents of the three stories in this book biblical power and poignancy. --Ray Olson Copyright 2003 Booklist



The Negro Speaks of Rivers I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I've known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Aunt Sue's Stories Aunt Sue has a head full of stories. Aunt Sue has a whole heart full of stories. Summer nights on the front porch Aunt Sue cuddles a brown-faced child to her bosom And tells him stories. Black slaves Working in the hot sun, And black slaves Walking in the dewy night, And black slaves Singing sorrow songs on the banks of a mighty river Mingle themselves softly In the flow of old Aunt Sue's voice, Mingle themselves softly In the dark shadows that cross and recross Aunt Sue's stories. And the dark-faced child, listening, Knows that Aunt Sue's stories are real stories. He knows that Aunt Sue never got her stories Out of any book at all, But that they came Right out of her own life. The dark-faced child is quiet Of a summer night Listening to Aunt Sue's stories. Negro I am a Negro: Black as the night is black, Black like the depths of my Africa. I've been a slave: Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean. I brushed the boots of Washington. I've been a worker: Under my hands the pyramids arose. I made mortar for the Woolworth Building. I've been a singer: All the way from Africa to Georgia I carried my sorrow songs. I made ragtime. I've been a victim: The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo. They lynch me still in Mississippi. I am a Negro: Black as the night is black, Black like the depths of my Africa. Mexican Market Woman This ancient hag Who sits upon the ground Selling her scanty wares Day in, day round, Has known high wind-swept mountains, And the sun has made Her skin so brown. The South The lazy, laughing South With blood on its mouth. The sunny-faced South, Beast-strong, Idiot-brained. The child-minded South Scratching in the dead fire's ashes For a Negro's bones. Cotton and the moon, Warmth, earth, warmth, The sky, the sun, the stars, The magnolia-scented South. Beautiful, like a woman, Seductive as a dark-eyed whore, Passionate, cruel, Honey-lipped, syphilitic- That is the South. And I, who am black, would love her But she spits in my face. And I, who am black, Would give her many rare gifts But she turns her back upon me. So now I seek the North- The cold-faced North, For she, they say, Is a kinder mistress, And in her house my children May escape the spell of the South. Mother to Son Well, son, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor- Bare. But all the time I'se been a-climbin' on, And reachin' landin's, And turnin' corners, And sometimes goin' in the dark Where there ain't been no light. So boy, don't you turn back. Don't you set down on the steps 'Cause you finds it's kinder hard. Don't you fall now- For I'se still goin', honey, I'se still climbin', And life for me ain't been no crystal stair. When Sue Wears Red When Susanna Jones wears red Her face is like an ancient cameo Turned brown by the ages. Come with a blast of trumpets, Jesus! When Susanna Jones wears red A queen from some time-dead Egyptian night Walks once again. Blow trumpets, Jesus! And the beauty of Susanna Jones in red Burns in my heart a love-fire sharp like pain. Sweet silver trumpets, Jesus! A Black Pierrot I am a black Pierrot: She did not love me, So I crept away into the night And the night was black, too. I am a black Pierrot: She did not love me, So I wept until the dawn Dripped blood over the eastern hills And my heart was bleeding, too. I am a black Pierrot: She did not love me, So with my once gay-colored soul Shrunken like a balloon without air, I went forth in the morning To seek a new brown love. My People The night is beautiful, So the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful, So the eyes of my people. Beautiful, also, is the sun. Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. Dream Variations To fling my arms wide In some place of the sun, To whirl and to dance Till the white day is done. Then rest at cool evening Beneath a tall tree While night comes on gently, Dark like me- That is my dream! To fling my arms wide In the face of the sun, Dance! Whirl! Whirl! Till the quick day is done. Rest at pale evening . . . A tall, slim tree . . . Night coming tenderly Black like me. Troubled Woman She stands In the quiet darkness, This troubled woman Bowed by Weariness and pain Like an Autumn flower In the frozen rain, Like a Wind-blown autumn flower That never lifts its head Again. I, Too I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed- I, too, am America. The Weary Blues Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He did a lazy sway. . . . He did a lazy sway. . . . To the tune o' those Weary Blues. With his ebony hands on each ivory key He made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues! Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues! Coming from a black man's soul. O Blues! In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan- "Ain't got nobody in all this world, Ain't got nobody but ma self. I's gwine to quit ma frownin' And put ma troubles on the shelf." Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. He played a few chords then he sang some more- "I got the Weary Blues And I can't be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues And can't be satisfied- I ain't happy no mo' And I wish that I had died." And far into the night he crooned that tune. The stars went out and so did the moon. The singer stopped playing and went to bed While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. He slept like a rock or a man that's dead. America Little dark baby, Little Jew baby, Little outcast, America is seeking the stars, America is seeking tomorrow. You are America. I am America America-the dream, America-the vision. America-the star-seeking I. Out of yesterday The chains of slavery; Out of yesterday, The ghettos of Europe; Out of yesterday, The poverty and pain of the old, old world, The building and struggle of this new one, We come You and I, Seeking the stars. You and I, You of the blue eyes And the blond hair, I of the dark eyes And the crinkly hair. You and I Offering hands Being brothers, Being one, Being America. You and I. And I? Who am I? You know me: I am Crispus Attucks at the Boston Tea Party; Jimmy Jones in the ranks of the last black troops marching for democracy. I am Sojourner Truth preaching and praying for the goodness of this wide, wide land; Today's black mother bearing tomorrow's America. Who am I? You know me, Dream of my dreams, I am America. I am America seeking the stars. America- Hoping, praying Fighting, dreaming. Knowing There are stains On the beauty of my democracy, I want to be clean. I want to grovel No longer in the mire. I want to reach always After stars. Who am I? I am the ghetto child, I am the dark baby, I am you And the blond tomorrow And yet I am my one sole self, America seeking the stars. Cross My old man's a white old man And my old mother's black. If ever I cursed my white old man I take my curses back. If ever I cursed my black old mother And wished she were in hell, I'm sorry for that evil wish And now I wish her well. My old man died in a fine big house. My ma died in a shack. I wonder where I'm gonna die, Being neither white nor black? Young Sailor He carries His own strength And his own laughter, His own today And his own hereafter- This strong young sailor Of the wide seas. What is money for? To spend, he says. And wine? To drink. And women? To love. And today? For joy. And the green sea For strength, And the brown land For laughter. And nothing hereafter. Joy I went to look for Joy, Slim, dancing Joy, Gay, laughing Joy, Bright-eyed Joy- And I found her Driving the butcher's cart In the arms of the butcher boy! Such company, such company, As keeps this young nymph, Joy! Ruby Brown She was young and beautiful And golden like the sunshine That warmed her body. And because she was colored Mayville had no place to offer her, Nor fuel for the clean flame of joy That tried to burn within her soul. One day, Sitting on old Mrs. Latham's back porch Polishing the silver, She asked herself two questions And they ran something like this: What can a colored girl do On the money from a white woman's kitchen? And ain't there any joy in this town? Now the streets down by the river Know more about this pretty Ruby Brown, And the sinister shuttered houses of the bottoms Hold a yellow girl Seeking an answer to her questions. The good church folk do not mention Her name any more. But the white men, Habitués of the high shuttered houses, Pay more money to her now Than they ever did before, When she worked in their kitchens. Back Luck Card Cause you don't love me Is awful, awful hard. Gypsy done showed me My bad luck card. There ain't no good left In this world for me. Gypsy done tole me- Unlucky as can be. I don't know what Po' weary me can do. Gypsy says I'd kill my self If I was you. Feet o' Jesus At the feet o' Jesus, Sorrow like a sea. Lordy, let yo' mercy Come driftin' down on me. At the feet o' Jesus At yo' feet I stand. O, ma little Jesus, Please reach out yo' hand. A House in Taos Rain Thunder of the Rain God: And we three Smitten by beauty. Thunder of the Rain God: And we three Weary, weary. Thunder of the Rain God: And you, she, and I Waiting for nothingness. Do you understand the stillness Of this house In Taos Under the thunder of the Rain God? Sun That there should be a barren garden About this house in Taos Is not so strange, But that there should be three barren hearts In this one house in Taos- Who carries ugly things to show the sun? Moon Did you ask for the beaten brass of the moon? We can buy lovely things with money, You, she, and I, Yet you seek, As though you could keep, This unbought loveliness of moon. Wind Touch our bodies, wind. Our bodies are separate, individual things. Touch our bodies, wind, But blow quickly Through the red, white, yellow skins Of our bodies To the terrible snarl, Not mine, Not yours, Not hers, But all one snarl of souls. Blow quickly, wind, Before we run back Into the windlessness- With our bodies- Into the windlessness Of our house in Taos. Brass Spittoons Clean the spittoons, boy. Detroit, Chicago, Atlantic City, Palm Beach. Clean the spittoons. The steam in hotel kitchens, And the smoke in hotel lobbies, And the slime in hotel spittoons: Part of my life. Hey, boy! A nickel, A dime, A dollar, Two dollars a day. Hey, boy! A nickel, A dime, A dollar, Two dollars Buys shoes for the baby. House rent to pay. Gin on Saturday, Church on Sunday. My God! Babies and gin and church and women and Sunday all mixed up with dimes and dollars and clean spittoons and house rent to pay. Hey, boy! A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord. Bright polished brass like the cymbals Of King David's dancers, Like the wine cups of Solomon. Hey, boy! A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord. A clean bright spittoon all newly polished,- At least I can offer that. Come 'ere, boy! Midnight Dancer (To a Black Dancer in "The Little Savoy") Wine-maiden Of the jazz-tuned night, Lips Sweet as purple dew, Breasts Like the pillows of all sweet dreams, Who crushed The grapes of joy And dripped their juice On you? Harlem Night Song Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. I love you. Across The Harlem roof-tops Moon is shining. Night sky is blue. Stars are great drops Of golden dew. Down the street A band is playing. I love you. Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. Ardella I would liken you To a night without stars Were it not for your eyes. I would liken you To a sleep without dreams Were it not for your songs. Port Town Hello, sailor boy, In from the sea! Hello, sailor, Come with me! Come on drink cognac. Rather have wine? Come here, I love you. Come and be mine. Lights, sailor boy, Warm, white lights. Solid land, kid. Wild, white nights. Come on, sailor, Out o' the sea. Let's go, sweetie! Come with me. Death of an Old Seaman We buried him high on a windy hill, But his soul went out to sea. I know, for I heard, when all was still, His sea-soul say to me: Put no tombstone at my head, For here I do not make my bed. Strew no flowers on my grave, I've gone back to the wind and wave. Do not, do not weep for me, For I am happy with my sea. Excerpted from Vintage Hughes by Langston Hughes All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.