The first volume of Arnold Rampersad's The Life of Langston Hughes received enormous praise. Michael Harper hailed it inThe Boston Globe as "an exquisite orchestration of the fully lived life"; Alice Walker called it "a book I have waited half a lifetime for"; and John Gross declared inThe New York Times that "Rampersad [leaves] you eager to see what he makes of the rest of the story." Now we have just that: the second and final volume of Rampersad's epic biography of black America's most original and beloved poet.
Rampersad traces Hughes' life from the humiliations of 1940-41, with his career in jeopardy, to his death in 1967. By that time, the world revered him not only as the dean of Afro-American writers, but also as a renowned artist whose poems, plays, and stories had profoundly influenced writers in Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. This volume grippingly describes Hughes' reassessment of radicalism and art during World War II, when he contributed steadily to the national war effort even as he relentlessly attacked segregation in his country. It recounts the FBI's surveillance of him and the hounding of him by right-wing forces, including Senator Joe McCarthy, who eventually forced him to testify about his radical years.
Rampersad reveals that throughout this period Hughes never lost sight of his greatest goal: to be an artist in words, committed to black life. His devotion to this dream led to an outpouring of books of verse and fiction that reflected his love of jazz and the blues; operas in which he collaborated with Kurt Weill, William Grant Still, and Jan Meyerowitz; musical plays that introduced black gospel to the American stage; books for children; and programs for radio and television featuring stars such as Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. His passion for life and literature brought him into fellowship--and sometimes sharp conflict--with a wide range of writers, including Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka.
Written with Rampersad's characteristic grace and meticulous attention to detail, this book combines with the first volume to offer a matchless panorama of life and culture in America and abroad during the first seventy years of this century.show more