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

Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues" (full text) (1926)

Editor's Note: 

The Weary Blues is Langston Hughes' first published book of poetry. It was published by Knopf in 1926, with a preface by Carl Van Vechten. Alongside Alain Locke's anthology, The New Negro: an Interpretation (1925), the publication of Hughes' collection of poems is one of the defining moments of the Harlem Renaissance. The Weary Blues contains several of Hughes' best known poems, including "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "Dream Variation," and the Epilogue ("I, too, sing America..."). It celebrates the emerging Black expressive culture in Harlem, but also reflects Hughes' considerable travels in the early 1920s, in Mexico, Europe, and the Caribbean (see "Water-front Streets," "A Farewell," "Port Town," "Natcha," "Soledad: A Cuban Portrait" and "Mexican Market Woman" for more of Hughes' internationalism).

Critics such as Arnold Rampersad have particularly singled out Hughes' innovative embrace of concepts borrowed from jazz and blues music as the defining innovation of this collection. The blues in particular would be central to Hughes' second published book of poems, Fine Clothes to the Jew (1928). Here, Hughes' interest in the collection seems equally divided between the blues theme and concepts and experiences closer to Jazz (along those lines, see "Jazzonia," "Negro Dancers," "To Midnight Nan at Leroys" and "The Cat and the Saxophone," to name just a few)

Langston Hughes first began publishing his poetry in The Crisis in June 1921; his first poem published there, fittingly, was "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," one of his most famous and enduring works. However, Hughes also published many other poems that would appear in The Weary Blues in magazines like Opportunity and Survey Graphic in the years leading up to the publication of his first book. 

For more on Langston Hughes, see our detailed timeline and Author Bio here. It features a timeline marking Hughes' various publications through the mid-1920s. 

This text was produced using the scanned version of the first edition of the book available at Google Books. For this digital edition, I extracted a plain text version, and then formatted and tagged the poems in the Table of Contents below. The plain text version can be found here.

--Amardeep Singh, Lehigh University. January 2022

The Weary Blues
by Langston Hughes

With an Introduction by Carl Van  Vechten

New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Dedication: "To my mother"
"I wish to thank the editors of The Crisis, Opportunity, Survey Graphic, Vanity Fair, The World Tomorrow and The Amsterdam News for having published some of the poems in this book."

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