Explore the Midwestern roots of a literary icon

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, 2017 inductee to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame

Langston Hughes is most commonly associated with the Harlem Renaissance, but he spent his early life in the Midwest.

Dr. Matthew Calihman, associate professor in the English department, said, “I do think Missouri is important to him,” noting that regional geography and events often emerged in Hughes’ writing.

Visiting scholar and documentarian Dr. Carmaletta Williams will unpack these influences during a multimedia presentation timed with Hughes’ induction to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame.

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A global artist and mentor

Hughes’ association with public affairs stems not only from his lifetime engagement with politics and society, but also from his role within America’s literary tradition.

“He’s a tremendously important figure — a giant,” Calihman said. “He had great influence on contemporaries.”

Calihman’s own research includes African American writers from the 1960s and 1970s, some of whom received direct encouragement from Hughes. “He was tremendously important in terms of cultivating African American writers,” Calihman said.

About visiting scholar Dr. Carmaletta Williams

Dr. Williams is the author of Langston Hughes in the Classroom (National Council of Teachers of English; 2006) and the co-editor of My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938 (U of Georgia P; 2013).  She won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston on Kansas City Public TV and Kansas City Public Library’s program Meet the Past.

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