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The existing scholarship on Langston Hughes contains few detailed studies of his relationship with his mother and its effect on his creative writing. This chapter addresses this omission by looking at the tension between Langston and his mother, Carrie. It is rooted in the call made several years ago by the eminent biographer Arnold Rampersad to infuse Black life writing with more psychological analyses. Using Murray Bowen’s family systems theory as a heuristic, the chapter explores the central issue of their familial arrangement: how physical and emotional distance affected their love for each other and the makeup of his art.
Writing the history of African American literature in the 1930s necessitates reconsidering issues that emanated from the 1920s, with a view toward showing how they underwent change in the 1930s. Four overlapping foci demonstrate how change, in these two eras, was less disjunctive than evolutionary: (1) a shift in the meaning of racial uplift, (2) quest for racial authenticity, (3) efforts to increase cultural competence, and (4) the writing of literary history. By the mid-1920s, this history can be gleaned, at least initially, in the adult education movement, which had come to define its mission as not simply acquiring knowledge but applying it to problem-solving in real-life situations. Organizations like the American Association for Adult Education (AADE), the Carnegie Foundation, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund provided financial support for education that reconciled intergroup conflicts, inequities, and the marginalization of citizens. Adult education in the 1930s slowly gave way to a list of competing literary critical approaches that revised the earlier conversation taking place about the nature and purpose of performing African American literary history.
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