Langston Hughes: Refugee in the Post's America
- American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism
- The Ohio State University Press
- Volume 29, Number 2, 2019
- pp. 163-177
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In 1943, two poems by Langston Hughes appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Given his consternation over the Post's unauthorized, prejudicial reprinting of "Goodbye, Christ" on December 21, 1940, and the magazine's long history of problematic representations of black Americans, one might have expected Hughes to avoid rather than seek out this venue. Yet editorial shifts at the Post combined with wartime fixation on the ideals of freedom seem to have given Hughes an opening to convey his message of equality to the Post's three million subscribers and estimated ten million readers. As he noted in "Negro Writers and the War," Hughes believed that US involvement in World War II could be used to "forc[e] democracy to recognize belatedly some of its own failings in regard to the Negro people." In particular, he called on creative writers to use publication in "general American magazines" to draw attention to the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom in a country that maintains Jim Crow. Focusing attention on the original site of publication reveals how Hughes shrewdly used the scope and reach of the Post to challenge the very social structures it had long espoused.