Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 1, 2002Volume 30, Number 16

This photograph, showing Langston Hughes among a crowd of young admirers, is part of the Beinecke Library's extensive collection of materials on the author.

Library invites public to share
'treasure' from poet Langston Hughes

The work, life and spirit of poet and cultural icon Langston Hughes (1902-1967) are the subjects of a major public exhibition at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library opening Friday, Feb. 1, the 100th anniversary of Hughes' birth.

Titled "My Soul Has Grown Deep like the Rivers: Langston Hughes at 100," the exhibition features documents and memorabilia that are part of the Hughes papers held by the Beinecke Library. Donated to the library by Hughes himself, the papers are the largest and most complete collection of his original work.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to view photographs and hear recordings from the collection on video monitors located throughout the library. The exhibition's opening also coincides with the first day of Black History Month. It will run through April 20.

"We're very excited about this opportunity to share our extensive Hughes collection with the public," says Barbara Shailor, director of the Beinecke Library. "We're hoping the New Haven community especially will take advantage of this treasure from one of America's great poets."

The exhibition highlights the varied interests and relationships that occupied Hughes' life and influenced his writing. It focuses on three aspects of Hughes' career: his poetry, his work as an artist and his role as an observer of contemporary society. The photographs, letters, books and manuscripts will make visible Hughes' accomplishments: as the lyricist of 800 songs, the writer of several plays and as an advocate of political and social reform.

A pivotal figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes drew on the language and culture of rural and working-class African-Americans, and particularly on jazz, for artistic expression. He was a vocal proponent of Black pride, urging his fellow artists to respect the unique cultural heritage they shared.

The documents displayed in the exhibition trace Hughes' development as a crusader for civil rights and social justice, which resulted in his censure by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and highlight his collaboration with other acclaimed artists of his day, including Duke Ellington, Kurt Weill, Charles Mingus and Zora Neale Hurston.

The Beinecke Library has previewed the Hughes exhibition for New Haven school teachers and librarians, and is conducting outreach to invite the community to use the exhibition to learn more about Hughes and his contributions.

In addition to the Hughes exhibition at the Beinecke Library, Yale's Department of African-American Studies is hosting an international symposium on Feb. 21­23. The symposium is titled "Langston Hughes and His World: A Centennial Celebration." More on this event will be featured in a future issue of the Yale Bulletin & Calendar.

The Beinecke Library, located at 121 Wall St., is open for exhibition viewing Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will also be open on Saturdays through February, on the first and fifth Saturdays in March (March 2 and 30) and the first three Saturdays in April (April 6, 13 and 20) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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