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Which Sin to Bear?Authenticity and Compromise in Langston Hughes$
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David E. Chinitz

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199919697

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199919697.001.0001

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Becoming Langston Hughes

Becoming Langston Hughes

(p.9) Chapter 1 Becoming Langston Hughes
Which Sin to Bear?

David E. Chinitz

Oxford University Press

Hughes has long appeared the literary paragon and evangelist of authentic blackness. No one in the first half of the century more influentially promulgated the ideal of an African-American “racial art.” His often-cited essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” argues vigorously that African-American art must express an authentic “racial self” to be valid, and it locates authenticity in the black masses and their cultural practices. This argument, exemplified memorably in Hughes's own creative work, has played a decisive role in the shaping of African-American art for many decades. Hughes was not born, however, to the role of black working-class spokesman, and it was only through deliberate effort that he became “authentic” according to his own understanding. The chapter traces his assiduous fashioning of “Langston Hughes” as popularly conceived and shows how his anxiety over his own authenticity shaped his early career.

Keywords:   hughes, langston, poetry, authenticity, race

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