Langston Hughes: The Godfather Of Urban Fiction

Langston Hughes: The Godfather Of Urban Fiction

There is one more week left of Black History Month and I couldn't let it go without mentioning my favorite author, Langston Hughes. I call him "The Godfather Of Urban Fiction" because to me, his stories and poems makes you laugh to keep you from crying.

I also have to pay homage to the best grammar school in the world, the one I attended, George Manierre Elementary. You may wonder what made it so great and now I have to tell you. I didn't appreciate it then but I appreciate it now that my grammar school made a big deal out of Black History Month. Each grade put on plays and other performances and there were no ways of escaping them. You had to be a tree or something but trust me, you performed.

I remember vividly having to recite Langston Hughes' poem "Mother To Son". I was in the 4th grade. I didn't understand it; in fact, I was embarrassed by it because I had to say it with a southern slave-like drawl in order to give the words the effect they deserved:

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
Bare.
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

The parents in the audience applauded loudly, either because they understood the poem or that I memorized it, or both. Decades later, however, with sons of my own now, I get it. I also love Hughes' poem "Ballad Of The Landlord" where he threatens the landlord if he don't come fix the things in his apartment. There are so many stories and poems I love by Hughes that I cannot name them all. But if it wasn't for my 4th grade teacher Ms. Joanne Mitchell giving me "Mother To Son" to recite, I wouldn't have known about him at all and I'm thankful for that.

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