Langston Hughes

This past weekend was Langston Hughes’ 113th Birthday, a fact which was commemorated in a Google doodle.

A prolific and powerful writer, Hughes wrote in many forms – poetry, plays, fiction and non-fiction.

All his work is remarkable, but I’ve always been particularly taken with his short poems – his ability to express so much with so little. Take, for example, Winter Moon:

How thin and sharp is the moon tonight!
How thin and sharp and ghostly white
Is the slim curved crook of the moon tonight!

But, of course, the real heart of his work was around social and racial justice. Hughes has plenty of works which tackle these issues outright – the 1947 ballad Freedom Train, for example.

And yet, there are few works I found as powerful, as poignant, as Lanston Hughes’ simple note, For Selma:

In places like
Selma, Alabama,
Kids say,
    In places like
    Chicago and New York…
In places like
Chicago and New York
Kids say,
    In places like
    London and Paris…
In places like
London and Paris
Kids say,
    In places like
    Chicago and New York…

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