February 1st: Langston Hughes / Black History Month

English · 1 February 2021

Let America be America again, let it be the dream it used to be.” – Langston Hughes

These first lines taken from Hughes’ poem “Let America be America again” (1935) seem now more topical than ever: In 2020 police violence, institutional racism and discrimination remained a current issue in the United States and beyond. Never has the ‘pursuit of happiness‘ seemed so far off. Recently, the land ‘where every man is free‘ has witnessed a change in government and the hope to overcome the inequalities – also expressed by the poem’s speaker – and to make this dream the reality of tomorrow, remains a vision and task for the Biden-Harris administration.

Today, we celebrate Hughes’ poetics and his 120th birthday, which marks the beginning of the ‘Black History Month’ – an annual observance for African-diasporan- and African-American history and heritage all around the world. As an award-winning poet, novelist, playwright, political activist and leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes reflected the joys, needs and frustration of black working-class life and brought African-American identity, racial inequalities and stereotyping on the literary agenda. His works offer colourful insights into African-American life in the 1920s and herald the recognition of black literature and arts.

On Lit4School, we feature the illustrated version That Is My Dream (2017) of Hughes’ “Dream Variations”, which is suitable for younger learners of English, and two works for intermediate learners – the short story Early Autumn and the poem mentioned earlier.

Kind regards and stay safe,