To celebrate the first of Feb that kicks off Black History Month (a whole 29 days this month because of the leap year.) I want to highlight an often overlooked writer and poet: Mr. Langston ‘What Happens to a Dream Deferred’ Hughes.
For two reasons. One, he’s my favorite poet (Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou are tied for my book-loving affections, TBH.) And because today is his birthday. No brainer there.
Other than that it’s not hard to appreciate the Joplin, Missouri-bred turned Harlem transplant’s pen. For instance, he wrote “The Negro Speaks Rivers” when he was a teenager. How often does a seventeen year old capture a whole race’s struggle using a body of water as a focus. Don’t believe me? Watch him recite the powerful poem below.
After hearing that poem it’s no mystery how Hughes became one of the legendary artistic architects behind the Harlem Renaissance. Building literary masterpieces–“I,Too” “Mother to Son” and “As I Grew Older”— of the Black experience like Gehry constructs buildings.
The wordsmith died in 1967 from complications treating prostrate cancer. He’s interred at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in (where else?) Harlem. As a lasting reminder of his legacy his epitaph reads “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
Doesn’t it give you chills?
Who are some of your favorite Black American heroes and sheroes? How will you celebrate Black History Month this year? Let me know in the comments below.