The Idea of an Essay, Volume 4

10 The Idea of an Essay: Volume 4 Hughes Hue Jean-Luc Schieferstein Langston Hughes was a peculiar man. He had strong, ideological regards for African-Americans and very little for much else. He rarely wrote of, or at least focused on, love, hope, and other ideals. Instead, his bent was politics for equality combined with African-American representation and portrayals. As one critic put it, Hughes’ work was “spaces worldwide in which we find avant-garde literary practices typically excluded from modernist studies for being too ‘transparent,’ too ‘realistic,’ too ‘ethnic,’ or too ‘political’—or simply for using languages other than English” (qtd. in Whalan). Hughes’ was a man born and refined in fire; shaped irrevocably by the times and key points in his life. Despite these, we see an individual who never lost sight of who he was, or aspired to be, even if he ultimately was short-sighted. To encounter Hughes first as an epoch invites us then to understand what fundamentally drove him and, finally, to evaluate what he has written alongside critics and Christian perspectives. In proposition of this personage of peculiarity, perhaps his short-sighted, crusader attitude was in effect a result of the one thing he lacked—love. Hughes’ life plays out much like Moses of the biblical epic. Raised in an elevated stature of cushioned wealth, status, and education, he was not destined the same fate as many African- Americans of the time where segregation was rampant. One critic put it, “By birth he belonged to what Du Bois famously extolled as ‘the Talented Tenth’ the minuscule portion of Afro-America he expected to lead, and represent, the race” (Anderson). He, in effect, was raised as a “prince” with potential for privileged living. Yet, Hughes’ was not immune to the oppression as especially “in college he [Hughes] had felt the sting of racial inequality” (Rampersad, Rossel, and Fratantoro xix). Hughes decided not to turn a blind- eye. Interestingly though, Hughes took up neither the cause nor the mantle of those in whom he called, “my people” right away. By extent, he couldn’t relating “in a 1929 letter he admitted that almost