The Special Collections exhibit "Langston Hughes: Poet of the
People" closed July 31, and helping send it off in style was Emory
emeritus Professor Richard Long, who spoke on Hughes' life and
writings, Tuesday, July 20.
address, "Looking at Langston: An Overview of the Life and Work
of Langston Hughes," was sponsored by the Friends of Emory Libraries
and drew more than 70 people--an overflow crowd--to Special Collections'
Robert Winship Woodruff Room on the 10th floor of Woodruff Library.
The event was part of the National Black Arts Festival, which ran
know several people who are writers, and when you talk to them
you can't get a word in edgewise; Langston wasn't like that," said
Long, Atticus G. Haygood Professor of Interdis-ciplinary Studies
emeritus. A full-time Emory faculty member from 1986-2001 (and
adjunct faculty for 13 years before that), Long has served on the
editorial board of the Langston Hughes Bulletin and written about
many African American writers, including Hughes, whom many consider
the foremost African American poet of the 20th century and a prominent
figure in the 1920s Harlem Renaissance.
an African and African American art scholar, Long co-chairs the
African American collections advisory committee for Emory Libraries.
He is an expert in the politics of culture in Thailand, Java and
Bali, and the history of dance. Maya Angelou, a close friend of
Long, has written that he is "a polymath who knows a great deal
discussed the wide range of Hughes' work, which includes novels,
biographies, histories, plays, translations and even operas. Chief
among Hughes' writings were his 17 collections of poetry. The first,
The Weary Blues, was released in 1926, and the final collection,
The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times, was released posthumously
in 1967. Those titles, Long intimated, were symbolic of Hughes'
relevance to the African American experience throughout his life.
he died, they were talking about the [Black] Panthers," Long said, "And
when he started, they were sure talking about the blues."
more than 50 minutes Long shared anecdotes about why Hughes wrote
what he did and sketched a detailed outline of the poet's personal
and professional relationships. Hughes was always encouraging of
other writers, Long said, and in his concluding remarks spoke of
his one meeting with the poet at the first World Black and African
Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1966 in Dakar, Senegal.
to his fellow man, Long said, was one of Hughes' greatest gifts. "He
had an excellent ear for the cadences of life and he constantly
did research," Long said of Hughes. "He never missed a street occasion
in Harlem. If there was a fire, he rushed out to hear what people
closed his talk with a reading of four Hughes poems, which he delivered
in such dramatic tones that he was rewarded with a loud ovation.
Collections' Hughes exhibit ran from April 14-July 31 and featured
collections from two of Hughes' closest friends. In 2000 and 2001,
Emory acquired the papers of Louise Thompson Patterson and Matt
and Evelyn Crawford, all of whom first met Hughes in the 1920s.
Patterson and Matt Crawford accompanied Hughes during a 1932 trip
to the Soviet Union with the goal of making a film depicting conditions
in the American South. While the film was never made, the trip
was well documented, and several photos from the journey were on
displayed items included letters, copies of books and pamphlets
(many signed by Hughes himself) and a partial transcription of
Hughes' 1953 testimony to a U.S. Senate committee asking him about
the radical content of some of his early work. One of the questioners
was Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
collection was curated by Lawrence Jackson, associate professor
of English, and two graduate students. "This is an example of the
way we want to use our collections to engage students in research
and public scholarship," said Randall Burkett, Special Collections'
curator of African American collections.