Langston Hughes

Missouri-born Langston Hughes used his poetry, novels, plays, and essays to champion his people and voice his concerns about race and social justice. He was a central figure of the flowering of African-American culture in 1920's and 30's known as the Harlem Renaissance.

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      Langston Hughes’s childhood was marked by poverty, the separation of his parents (his father emigrated to Mexico, where Hughes would later visit), a matriarchal, church-going education, and a nomadic series of moves. Eventually the young man arrived in New York City in 1921. There, with some money sent by his father, he enrolled in Columbia University, wrote his first verse, and began to publish in The Crisis, the historic magazine of the N.A.A.C.P., founded by W.E.B. Du Bois.

      When funds for college dried up, Hughes moved to Harlem at the height of its golden era. For the remainder of the decade he would associate with all her prominent figures–Du Bois, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Jean Toomer, Arna Bontemps, and Carl Van Vechten. He would receive patronage from the formidable but controlling Charlotte Mason, make voyages of self-discovery to Africa and Europe, and return to the United States with a freer, more confident vision of his own identity as an African-American, an artist, a leftist (he would later spend some time in Russia and answer for it during the McCarthy hearings), and a homosexual.

      Hughes’s prolific literary career was launched in 1926 with a volume of jazz poems called The Weary Blues, written for performance with musical accompaniment in the famous Harlem clubs of the era. It captured both the Opportunity Prize and the prestigious Spingarn Award, and financed for Hughes the completion of his education, at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Among his many poetry collections, The Negro Mother (1931), The Dream Keeper (1932), and Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) argue passionately for his belief in human equality, his wish for color-blind brotherhood, and his growing disillusionment with the American dream. His novel Tambourines to Glory (1958) appeared as a musical play (1963), and his two volumes of autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, together with his essay about his involvement with the N.A.A.C.P. and the civil rights movement, “Fight for Freedom,” chart Hughes’s long commitment to comradeship and equality. As those dreams began to bear fruit in the tumultuous 60’s, Hughes was lionized with increasing frequency. He continued to devote his pen to the ideals of his youth, and took an increasing interest in the movement toward Afrocentric values for black Americans. Hailed as “the Negro Poet Laureate,” Hughes died in his beloved Harlem on May 22, 1967.

      –Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, PBS I Hear America Singing

      Photo: Academy of American Poets

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      Videos

      Recordings

      Paul Robeson - The Complete EMI Sessions

      (Charles Wakefield Cadman, Henry Burleigh, Benjamin Carr, Will Marion Cook, Stephen Foster, Langston Hughes, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Ethelbert Nevin, Oscar Rasbach and Oley Speaks)

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      Composer(s): H. Leslie Adams, David N. Baker, Margaret Bonds, Charles Brown, H. T. Burleigh, Valerie Capers, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Arthur Cunningham, Harriette Davison Watkins, William Dawson, Mark Fax, Bruce Forsythe, Antônio Carlos Gomes, Adolphus Hailstork, Jacqueline Hairston, Maud Cuney Hare, Jeraldine Herbison, Jonathan Holland, Sylvia Hollifield, Langston Hughes, J. Rosamond Johnson, Thomas Kerr, Lena McLin, Undine Smith Moore, Andre Myers, Camille Nickerson, Fred Onovwerosuoke, Eurydice Osterman, Robert Owens, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Zenobia Powell Perry, Rosephanye Powell, Florence Price, Dave Ragland, Nadine Shanti, Carlos Simon, Hale Smith, Irene Britton Smith, Brandon Spencer, Hilbert Stewart, Howard Swanson, George Walker, Aurelia Young

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      Caring (Charles Brown)
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      Suspiro d’alma (Antônio Carlos Gomes)
      If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking (Adolphus Hailstork)
      Longing (Adolphus Hailstork)
      Loveliest of Trees (Adolphus Hailstork)
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      The Year’s at the Spring (Lena McLin)
      I Am in Doubt (Undine Smith Moore)
      I Want to Die While You Love Me (Undine Smith Moore)
      For a Poet (Andre Myers)
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      Entreaty (I Am the Rose of Sharon) (Eurydice Osterman)
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      Die Nacht (Robert Owens)
      From the Dark Tower (Robert Owens)
      The Lynching (Robert Owens)
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      Troubled Woman (Hale Smith)
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      Spring Song (Hilbert Stewart)
      One Day (Howard Swanson)
      I Went to Heaven (George Walker)
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      Voice Type: 36 Songs are for High Voice - Medium to High Voice
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      Song(s): For You There is No Song (H. Leslie Adams)
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      Nunc Dimittis (Eugene Hancock)
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      If There Be Sorrow (Wendell Logan)
      Marrow of My Bone (Wendell Logan)
      Chanson Triste (Maurice McCall)
      Sweet Sorrow (Maurice McCall)
      Weary Blues (Dorothy Rudd Moore)
      Love Let the Wind Cry...How I Adore Thee (Undine Moore)
      Faithful One (Robert Owens)
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      Melancholy (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
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      Velvet Shoes (Hale Smith)
      Grief (William Grant Still)
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      I Will Lie Down in Autumn (Howard Swanson)
      The Negro Speaks of Rivers (Howard Swanson)
      Lament (George Walker)
      A Red, Red Rose (George Walker)
      Wry Fragments (Olly Wilson)
      Dancing in the Sun (John Work, Jr.)
      Soliloquy (John Work, Jr.)

      Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

      Climbing: Poems by African-Americans

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      Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

      Drum

      Composer(s): Hermann Reutter

      Buy via Schott Music

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      Composer(s): Ned Rorem

      Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

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      Composer(s): Florence Price

      Song(s): 1. Hold Fast to Dreams (Langston Hughes)
      Key D Major - d minor
      2. Travel's End (Mary Folwell Hoisington)
      Key B Major (Low voice)
      3. To My Little Son (Julia Johnson Davis)
      Key B Major (Medium voice)
      4. Fantasy in Purple (Langston Hughes)
      Key f minor (Medium voice)
      5. Sympathy (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
      Key E-flat (Medium-High voice)
      plus a transposed higher key, G Major (High voice)

      Voice Type: Medium/High

      Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

      Flowers of Darkness

      Composer(s): Dorothy Rudd Moore

      Voice Type: tenor

      Buy via American Composers Alliance

      Four Negro Songs

      Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

      Song(s): 1. Shake Your Brown Feet, Honey!
      2. The Cryin' Blues
      3. Jazz-Boys
      4. That Soothin' Song

      View via WorldCat

      Genius Child

      Composer(s): Ricky Ian Gordon

      Song(s): 1. Winter Moon
      2. Genius Child
      3. Kid in the Park
      4. To Be Somebody
      5. Troubled Woman
      6. Strange Hurt: Long Version
      7. Strange Hurt: Short Version
      8. Prayer
      9. Border Line
      10. My People
      11. Joy

      Buy via Hal Leonard

      Genius Child

      Composer(s): Robert Owens

      Voice Type: Baritone

      Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

      Madam To You

      Composer(s): Elie Siegmeister

      Buy via Sheet Music Plus

      Minstrel Man

      Composer(s): Hermann Reutter

      Buy via Schott Music

      Mother to Son

      Composer(s): Hall Johnson

      Buy via Carl Fischer Music

      Only Heaven

      Composer(s): Ricky Ian Gordon

      Song(s): Harlem Night Song
      Daybreak In Alabama
      When Sue Wears Red
      Late Last Night
      Port Town
      Angel Wings
      Luck
      Delinquent
      Dream Variations
      In Time Of Silver Rain
      Song For A Dark Girl
      Drum
      Litany
      Dream
      Night: Four Songs
      Demand
      Stars

      Buy via Hal Leonard

      Shadow of the Blues

      Composer(s): John Musto

      Song(s): 1. Silhouette
      2. Litany
      3. Island
      4. Could Be

      Buy via Hal Leonard

      Song for a Dark Girl

      Composer(s): Hermann Reutter

      Buy via Schott Music

      Songs of Our Time

      Composer(s): Ricky Ian Gordon

      Song(s): Virginia Woolf
      Friend
      Little Horse
      Spell against Sorrow
      The Light Comes on by Itself
      Pont Mirabeau
      A Poem of Unrest
      This Room
      If You Can
      Aspen Tree
      Three Floors
      The Crazy Woman
      Child
      Dreams / Feet o' Jesus

      Buy via Carl Fischer Music

      Songs of Separation

      Composer(s): William Grant Still

      Buy via William Grant Still Music

      The Breath of a Rose

      Composer(s): William Grant Still

      Voice Type: High

      Buy via Sheet Music Plus

      The Face of War

      Composer(s): Elie Siegmeister

      Voice Type: Low

      Find it at your Local Library

      When Sue Wears Red

      Composer(s): Hermann Reutter

      Buy via Schott Music

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