African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Langston Hughes, Poems Published in "The Crisis" 1921-1926

Langston Hughes published more than 25 poems in The Crisis between 1921 and 1926. He began with what would become a signature poem from his body of work, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (1921). During this time period, Hughes was traveling extensively, working as a mess-boy on merchant vessels or living in Paris. His publications in The Crisis helped establish him as a well-known poet amongst African American readers, even at a time when he was often living extremely precariously. The strong reputation Hughes enjoyed by 1925 helped him win important literary prizes sponsored by magazines such as Opportunity and The Crisis, and led him to be able to publish his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, with Knopf. 

Many of the  poems listed below were published in full-page spreads in the magazine, including one in August 1923 and a second in December 1925. The seven poems in December 1925 were submitted to the Spingarn Prize, where Hughes placed third in the fall contest (the first prize went to Countee Cullen). 

Many of the poems Hughes published in The Crisis would also be included in The Weary Blues, though there are some exceptions (for instance, he chose not to republished "To a Negro Jazz Band in a Parisian Cafe" or "Minstrel Man." The former poem has some similarities to a a poem he did publish in The Weary Blues, "Harlem Night Club." The latter is an exceptional and insightful poem that reminds this reader of Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask").


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