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Chapter 12 - Langston Hughes and the Haitian Revolution

from Part II - The Global Langston Hughes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2022

Vera M. Kutzinski
Affiliation:
Vanderbilt University, Tennessee
Anthony Reed
Affiliation:
Vanderbilt University, Tennessee
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Summary

Langston Hughes has earned iconic status in the history of African American letters. However, Hughes should also be understood as a radical political thinker and writer who sought to promote international anti-imperialism, Pan-Africanism, and a hemispheric understanding of Black diasporic history and culture. This chapter considers Langston Hughes’s writings on the Haitian Revolution – the play Emperor of Haiti (1936) and the opera libretto Troubled Island (1949) – as well as the presence of Haiti in Hughes’s poetry and journalism. These writings demonstrate that Haiti served as a pivot point in Hughes’s thinking, with Haitian history supplying Hughes with a heroic counter-narrative of Black freedom. Casting fresh light on the cultural currency of Haiti’s history of anticolonialism within radical African American circles, the chapter argues that Hughes’s Haitian writings carry a powerful message of an unfinished revolution, renegotiate diasporic relationships to Haiti, and proudly celebrate Black historical achievement in the Americas.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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