This essay brings to light an important area of Langston Hughes's work as a writer and an intellectual that has been neglected by critics and scholars. In the discipline of American studies, Hughes is known primarily as a "folk poet," yet in his life he produced an enormous body of work that cannot be contained by this limited categorization, in particular the writing he published during the height of the cold war. The general conception of Hughes is that he went into political hiding after 1953, following his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and, for the rest of his career, steered clear of socialist projects such as the politicization of literature. But a reflection on his writing of the 1950s compels a different conclusion. Specifically, The First Book of Rhythms, published in 1954, based on a writing workshop for young people Hughes conducted in Chicago, is the focus of this paper. It embodies the main themes and strategies that unified Hughes's prolific literary output during the cold war.