In Memory …. Langston Hughes


Langston HughesImage result for langston hughes

19021967 , Joplin , MO

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a young child, and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Lincoln that Hughes began writing poetry. After graduating from high school, he spent a year in Mexico followed by a year at Columbia University in New York City. During this time, he held odd jobs such as assistant cook, launderer, and busboy. He also travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D. C. Hughes’s first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, (Knopf, 1926) was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, (Knopf, 1930) won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in his book-length poem Montage of a Dream Deferred (Holt, 1951). His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.

The critic Donald B. Gibson noted in the introduction to Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice Hall, 1973) that Hughes “differed from most of his predecessors among black poets . . . in that he addressed his poetry to the people, specifically to black people. During the twenties when most American poets were turning inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers, Hughes was turning outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read . . . Until the time of his death, he spread his message humorously—though always seriously—to audiences throughout the country, having read his poetry to more people (possibly) than any other American poet.”

Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in May 22, 1967, in New York City. In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”

In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, (Simon & Schuster, 1950); Simple Stakes a Claim, (Rinehart, 1957); Simple Takes a Wife, (Simon & Schuster, 1953); and Simple’s Uncle Sam (Hill and Wang, 1965). He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography, The Big Sea (Knopf, 1940), and cowrote the play Mule Bone (HarperCollins, 1991) with Zora Neale Hurston.

 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Knopf, 1994)
The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times (Knopf, 1967)
Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (Knopf, 1961)
Montage of a Dream Deferred (Holt, 1951)
One-Way Ticket (Knopf, 1949)
Fields of Wonder (Knopf, 1947)
Freedom’s Plow (Musette Publishers, 1943)
Shakespeare in Harlem (Knopf, 1942)
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf, 1932)
Scottsboro Limited (The Golden Stair Press, 1932)
Dear Lovely Death (Troutbeck Press, 1931)
Fine Clothes to the Jew (Knopf, 1927)
The Weary Blues (Knopf, 1926)

Prose

Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964 (Knopf, 2001)
The Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters (Dodd, Mead, 1980)
Good Morning, Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes (Hill, 1973)
Simple’s Uncle Sam (Hill and Wang, 1965)
Something in Common and Other Stories (Hill and Wang, 1963)
Tambourines to Glory (John Day, 1958)
Simple Stakes a Claim (Rinehart, 1957)
I Wonder as I Wander (Rinehart, 1956)
Laughing to Keep From Crying (Holt, 1952)
Simple Takes a Wife (Simon & Schuster, 1953)
Simple Speaks His Mind (Simon & Schuster, 1950)
The Ways of White Folks (Knopf, 1934)
Not Without Laughter (Knopf, 1930)

Drama

Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vol. 5: The Plays to 1942: Mulatto to The Sun Do Move (University of Missouri Press, 2000)
The Political Plays of Langston Hughes (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)
Mule Bone (HarperCollins, 1991)
Five Plays by Langston Hughes (Indiana University Press, 1963)

Poetry in Translation

Cuba Libre (Anderson & Ritchie, 1948)
Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral (Indiana University Press, 1957)

Translation

Masters of the Dew (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947)

Sitting for Justice: Woolworth’s Lunch Counter


On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their passive resistance and peaceful sit-down demand helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South.

Woolworth lunch counter

Woolworth lunch counter

In Greensboro, hundreds of students, civil rights organizations, churches, and members of the community joined in a six-month-long protest. Their commitment ultimately led to the desegregation of the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter on July 25, 1960.

Greensboro first day

Greensboro first day

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960.
(Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Woolworth sit-in

Woolworth sit-in

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.
(Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center

On the evening of December 1, 1955 , Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested


On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full. Blacks also were required to sit at the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system and led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.

I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home.

Quiet Strength: the faith, the hope, and the heart of a woman who changed a nation. Reflections by Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994. p23.

Woman Fingerprinted. Mrs. Rosa Parks, Negro Seamstress, whose Refusal to Move to the Back of a Bus Touched off the Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Ala. Associated Press, [Feb. 22,] 1956. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Rosa Parks: “Why do you push us around?” Officer: “I don’t know but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”

Quiet Strength: the faith, the hope, and the heart of a woman who changed a nation. Reflections by Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994. p23.

Rosa McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks and with his encouragement earned a high school diploma. The couple was active in the Montgomery Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) External. While working as a seamstress, Mrs. Parks served as chapter secretary and, for a time, as advisor to the NAACP Youth Council. Denied the right to vote on at least two occasions because of her race, Rosa Parks also worked with the Voters League in preparing blacks to register.

We Shall Overcome.” Silphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, and Pete Seeger; New York: Ludlow Music, Inc., 1963. [Courtesy: Ludlow Music, Inc., 11 West 19th Street New York, NY 10011.] The Civil Rights Era. In The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship. Music Division Probably first used in 1945 by striking South Carolina tobacco workers, “We Shall Overcome” became the anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The protest song’s first separate publication, shown above, credits Silphia Horton of the Highlander Folk School with shared authorship.

Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the NAACP choose Rosa Parks to attend a desegregation workshop at the Highlander Folk School External in Monteagle, Tennessee. Reflecting on that experience, Parks recalled, “At Highlander I found out for the first time in my adult life that this could be a unified society…I gained there the strength to persevere in my work for freedom not just for blacks, but for all oppressed people.”

Although her arrest was not planned, Park’s action was consistent with the NAACP’s desire to challenge segregated public transport in the courts. A one-day bus boycott coinciding with Parks’s December 5 court date resulted in an overwhelming African-American boycott of the bus system. Since black people constituted seventy percent of the transit system’s riders, most busses carried few passengers that day.

5,000 at Meeting Outline Boycott; Bullet Clips Bus. Montgomery, Alabama, Bus Boycott. Montgomery Advertiser, December 6, 1955. [Courtesy: Montgomery Advertiser. Copyprint from microfilm.] The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship. Serial & Government Publications Division

The success of the boycott mandated sustained action. Religious and political leaders met at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (later the Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Dexter’s new pastor, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., was appointed the group’s leader. For the next year, the Montgomery Improvement Association coordinated the bus boycott and King, an eloquent young preacher, inspired those who refused to ride:

If we are wrong—the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong—God almighty is wrong! If we are wrong—Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer and never came down to earth. If we are wrong—justice is a lie. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” 1

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Montgomery, Alabama, 1955.

During the boycott, King insisted that protestors retain the moral high ground, hinting at his later strategy of nonviolent resistance.

This is not a war between the white and the Negro but a conflict between justice and injustice. If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. 2

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Montgomery, Alabama, 1955.

In December 1956 the Supreme Court banned segregation on public transportation and the boycott ended over a year after it had begun. Rosa and Raymond Parks moved to Detroit where, for more than twenty years, the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” worked for Congressman John Conyers. In addition to the Rosa Parks Peace Prize (Stockholm, 1994) and the U.S. Medal of Freedom (1996), Rosa Parks has been awarded two-dozen honorary doctorates from universities around the world.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005, at the age of ninety-two, at her home in Detroit, Michigan. On October 30, 2005, Parks became the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. ed. Clayborne Carson (New York: Intellectual Properties Management in Association with Warner Books: 1998), 60. (Return to text)
  2. King 1998, 81. (Return to text)

loc.gov 

21st Century … Colonialism


Residual Colonialism In The 21St Century …

  The 21st century deserves better. More importantly, the nearly 2 million people still living under colonial rule deserve better.

Article
definitely a repost
  • 2012•05•29

    John Quintero

    Residual colonialism in the 21st centuryPhoto: DB King

    Though colonialism is generally considered to be a relic of the past, nearly 2 million people in 16 “non-self-governing territories” across the globe still live under virtual colonial rule.  In recognition of the United Nations International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories (25–31 May), we present this analysis of “residual colonialism in the 21st century”.

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    In 2009, the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) suspended parts of the Constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), a British Overseas Territory, in response to allegations of systemic corruption in the territory. Direct rule from London was imposed over the democratically elected local government. This unilateral, top-down action removed the constitutional right to trial by jury, suspended the ministerial government and the House of Assembly, and charged a UK-appointed Governor with the administration of the islands.

    A tentative period for elections has been given (fall 2012 at the earliest), but this is subject to the deliberation of the British government and tied to a series of specific milestones that must be met. These announcements provoked protests and demonstrations by the islanders. The suspension of the TCI government over corruption allegations seems to run contrary to the way in which financial and governance crises are handled around the world, including in the UK itself. Scandals are part of political life, but constitutions are not suspended nor are democratically elected governments and institutions disbanded.

    How is it that these events have occurred in a world based on a system of supposedly equal sovereign states? The answer lies in the little known fact that colonial structures continue to exist even today in some parts of the world.

    Continuing colonialism

    The wave of decolonization that swept around the world in the latter half of the 20th century was once heralded as one of the great liberating movements in history. Yet, few seem to realize that colonialism is still with us. As of 2012, 16 territories are deemed still to be under colonial rule and are labeled by the United Nations as “non-self-governing territories (NSGTs)” — areas in which the population has not yet attained a full measure of self-government.

    The 16 NSGTs, home to nearly 2 million people, are spread across the globe. They remain under the tutelage of former colonial powers (currently referred to as “administering powers”), such as the UK, the USA and France.

    Most of the NSGTs feature as only small dots on the world map but are in fact prominent players on the world stage. Some act as the world’s leading financial centres, with GDP per capita amongst the world’s top 10 (e.g., the Cayman Islands and Bermuda), some constitute vital bastions for regional security (e.g., Guam), and there are those whose geographical location has made them prone to diplomatic disputes (e.g., Gibraltar and the Falklands/Malvinas).

    A UN committee on decolonization does exist (Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization), under the purview of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (Special Political and Decolonization Committee). Its mission is to oversee the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (14 December 1960).

    The world underwent a political renovation following the formation of the United Nations in 1945, and the number of sovereign UN Member States has skyrocketed from the original 51 to 193. However, the 50-plus years since the founding of the United Nations have proved to be insufficient to eradicate a centuries-old structure of dominance. This is in spite of the advancement of legal systems based on the notions of the sovereign equality of states and human rights prevalent in the contemporary world.

    Decolonization, as bluntly put by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, remains an unfinished business; an unfinished process that has been with the international community for too long. In solidarity with the peoples of the NSGTs, the present decade (2010-2020) has been declared the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (as the past two decades have proved inadequate to ensure the disappearance of such an archaic concept).

    Independence is not the only option

    The doctrine of self-determination and political equality has prevailed as the guiding principle for decolonization ever since the inception of the United Nations. Much progress has been achieved and political autonomy for many former dependent states (micro-states, even) has been realized, but the decolonization process remains stalled. No territory has achieved self-government since East Timor (now Timor-Leste) won full independence from Indonesia in 2002.

    The many achievements of decolonization by the United Nations cannot be considered truly global while some peoples continue to live under colonial rule. Administering states such as the UK and France continue to exercise top-down authority through modernized dependency governance models that, while perhaps ensuring sustained economic progress, create a democratic deficit and political vulnerability based on unequal status.

    The decolonization agenda championed by the United Nations is not based exclusively on independence. There are three other ways in which an NSGT can exercise self-determination and reach a full measure of self-government (all of them equally legitimate): integration within the administering power, free association with the administering power, or some other mutually agreed upon option for self-rule.

    The current impasse is due, in part, to the denial by the administering states of these options, but also to a lack of public awareness on the part of the peoples of the NSGTs that they are entitled to freely determine their territory’s political status in accordance with the options presented to them by the United Nations. It is the exercise of the human right of self-determination, rather than independence per se, that the United Nations has continued to push for.

    ColonizedNon-Self-GoverningThe framework against colonialism

    International law provides a particularly effective conceptual framework from which to criticize these complex dependency arrangements. In the UN Charter, not only Articles 1 and 55 maintain that one of its fundamental purposes and principles is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”. A further three chapters of the Charter are devoted to the dependent territories, namely Chapter XI (Declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories), Chapter XII (International Trusteeship System) and Chapter XIII (The Trusteeship Council).

    Core human rights conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) both affirm the right of self-determination and that the states parties to the covenants have the responsibility to promote the realization of self-determination, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. Colonialism has been formally delegitimized as an acceptable international practice, as per the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly Resolution 1514 [XV]) in 1960 and a companion resolution defining the three legitimate models of political equality (General Assembly Resolution 1541 [XV]). Further resolutions, for example, established permanent sovereignty over natural resources (General Assembly Resolution 1803 [XVII]).

    In October 1970, UN General Assembly Resolution 2621 (XXV) declared that the further continuation of colonialism in all its forms and manifestations is a crime, and in 1977 General Assembly Resolution 32/14 reaffirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle.

    The road ahead

    Colonialism made the political world map look much as it does today, drawing up borders with no regard for local sensibilities and realities. It negated or purposefully misconceived the cultural, economic, political and social conditions under which the colonized led their lives. In the process, colonial powers imposed inappropriate identities on the people they ruled, crippling peoples’ self-esteem, thus diminishing their self-efficacy and potentially stunting their long-term social development.

    Given the modern emphasis on the equality of states and inalienable nature of their sovereignty, many people do not realize that these non-self-governing structures still exist. Thus, the world has closed its eyes to continuing colonial dependence.

    World media has the potential to play a pivotal role in advancing decolonization by exposing developments that infringe on the exercise of the right of self-determination and that worsen the political vulnerability of the NSGTs. The issue at hand is not that colonialism does not exist in today’s world because the populations of these territories overwhelmingly do not define these territories as colonies. Rather, it is that these populations have not been provided with an opportunity to decide on a legitimate political status through popular consultation in the form of an acceptable act of self-determination. Once this is made sufficiently clear, media coverage and overview can be expected.

    In light of the disbandment of an overseas democratically elected government in TCI, the international community, the public in general and the peoples of the NGSTs alike have been reminded that the UN agenda on colonialism is very much relevant and crucial — -not only for the protection of fundamental human rights, but to democratic governance and an international order principled upon the notions of sovereignty and the equality of states.

    One of the greatest and most visible achievements of the United Nations has been to pursue the decolonization of the colonized world. However, a successful end to this process cannot be based on simply removing territories from the UN list of NSGTs (de-listing), but rather on the actual achievement of full self-government.

    De-listing cannot be perceived as the goal, but rather as a secondary product resulting from clear indicators of self-government, political equality vis-à-vis the administering state, and the promotion and support of genuine political education programmes that allow the populace of those territories to freely choose their status and their future. Not doing so would result in stymieing the legitimate aspirations of peoples whose human rights the United Nations was created to protect.

    Colonialism is a concept of an exploitative past that runs counter to the principles of sovereign equality on which the United Nations is grounded. As commonly expressed in General Assembly debates, colonialism is anachronistic, archaic, and outmoded; it contravenes the fundamental tenets of democracy, freedom, human dignity and human rights.

    The 21st century deserves better. Most importantly, the nearly 2 million people still living under colonial rule deserve better.

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