Google Doodle celebrates Langston Hughes

February 1, 2015 • 7:30 am

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the life of Langston Hughes (1902-1967), author and poet, who would have been 113 years old today had he lived. The Doodle is especially good today—animated, and with music. You can see it by either clicking on the screenshot below, or, if that doesn’t work for non-USers, watch the YouTube video below that:

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.11.55 AM

 

Hughes, who was on our assigned reading lists in college, was a founder of the “Harlem Renaissance”, a black movement of literature, and culture in general, of the early 1900s. It was perhaps the first sustained celebration by African Americans of their own culture.

The poem in the Doodle is Hughes’s “I Dream A World”: it’s a forerunner of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!

His most famous poem, though, is “Harlem,” from which came the title of a famous play and movie:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Google tells how the artist, Katy Wu, made the Doodle. The source of the music is intriguing:

The doodle’s music, serving as a tour guide through each verse of the poem, features Adam Ever-Hadani on the piano and the The Boston Typewriter Orchestra, a 6 member musical ensemble that make music using manual typewriters.

 

13 thoughts on “Google Doodle celebrates Langston Hughes

  1. Unrelated to the snow, JC – we’re in Ft. Lauderdale for the winter. I just want to say a big “thank you” for your “Boys in the Boat” recommendation. What a beautifully written, warm, inspired and inspiring, page-turner read.

  2. I read Langston Hughs in first year English. I always associate him with Gwendolyn Brooks whose poem, “We Real Cool” is a great one!

    1. I just read the Brooks poem to my daughters last night. John Lithgow has a great anthology of poetry and the accompanying CD features Morgan Freeman reading We Real Cool. He sure is!

    1. I suppose that is why he worked with the artist Jacob Burck and chose Maxim Lieber as his literary agent? He also wrote for the Common Ground, a literary magazine published quarterly between 1940 and 1949 by the Common Council for American Unity to further an appreciation of contributions to U.S. culture by many ethnic, religions and national groups. Was it his anti-semitism that drove him to proudly talk about his own Jewish heritage? Yes, Langston Hughes was Jewish by way of his great-grandfather who was a slave trader. Anti-semitism was (and unfortunately can still be) part of the Black community. But Langston Hughes was definitely not an anti-semite. Next time you post something so onerous, please check your facts beforehand.

    2. Sorry, but I don’t see much evidence for that beyond one poem that Hughes said was anti-Semitic but that offended some Jews. Unless you can document a pervasive pattern of anti-Semitism, and VICIOUS anti-Semitism, in Hughes’s works, you should retract your statement.

    1. Ah, my favorite Langston Hughes poem. Thank you for reminding me to reread it again! I agree it is very appropriate for today, too.

      1. Mine too. His work has always been a great influence for me. Also Siegfried Sassoon and his haunting poems regarding the horrors of war.

  3. “A Raisin In The Sun” may get the credit as the movie whose name was taken directly from that poem, but I can think of a great many other films that were apparently inspired by the line, “Does it stink like rotten meat.”

  4. One of my favourite all-time poets. He painted wonderful pictures of people with words, often with a special kind of pathos. I’ll reproduce two of his best here:

    “Afraid”

    We cry among the skyscrapers
    As our ancestors
    Cried among the palms in Africa
    Because we are alone,
    It is night,
    And we’re afraid.

    ———-

    “Drama for Winter Night (Fifth Avenue)”

    You can’t sleep here,
    My good man,
    You can’t sleep here.
    This is the house of God.

    The usher opens the church door and he goes out.

    You can’t sleep in this car, old top,
    Not here.
    If Jones found you
    He’d give you to the cops.
    Get-the-hell out now,
    This ain’t home.
    You can’t stay here.

    The chauffeur opens the door and he gets out.

    Lord! You can’t let a man lie
    In the streets like this.
    Find an officer quick.
    Send for an ambulance.
    Maybe he is sick but
    He can’t die on this corner,
    Not here!
    He can’t die here.

    Death opens a door.

    Oh, God,
    Lemme git by St. Peter.
    Lemme sit down on the steps of your throne.
    Lemme rest somewhere.
    What did yuh say, God?
    What did yuh say?
    You can’t sleep here….
    Bums can’t stay….

    The man’s raving.
    Get him to the hospital quick.
    He’s attracting a crowd.
    He can’t die on this corner.
    No, no, not here.

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