Back Poet of the People: The Greatness of Langston Hughes

LOA Live: A Conversation with Brent Hayes Edwards and Rafia Zafar

February 18, 2021 — One hundred years ago Langston Hughes published his now-famous first poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” In the decades that followed, as both a longtime resident of Harlem and a cosmopolitan world traveler, Hughes wrote of Black life in masterful, deceptively simple poems and prose that made him one of the most popular and influential writers of the twentieth century.

Brent Hayes Edwards, Director of the Schomburg Center’s Scholars-in-Residence Program and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, joins Rafia Zafar, Professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and editor of Library of America’s two-volume collection of Harlem Renaissance novels, for a conversation about Hughes’s greatness and his centrality for American literature and the culture of the global African diaspora. The program also features readings of Hughes’s work by poets Kevin Young and Tyehimba Jess and bluesman Billy Branch.

Listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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Presented in partnership with the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers; the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research; Washington University in St. Louis; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and Columbia University

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