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Langston Hughes and American Lynching Culture$
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W. Jason Miller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813035338

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813035338.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

The Red Summer of 1919

The Red Summer of 1919

Finding Reassurance

(p.18) 1 The Red Summer of 1919
Langston Hughes and American Lynching Culture

W. Jason Miller

University Press of Florida

This chapter revisits “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes's first record of personal resistance against the threats of lynching. It highlights his most widely known poem penned while riding on a train headed through Texas during the Red Summer of 1919. It draws attention to the lynchings of Jesse Washington and Lige Daniels, as well as the Longview Race Riot. The chapter illustrates the kind of art which results from when a human being is forced to live in the shadow of such traumatizing dismemberment. It is an evidence of how Hughes overcame topophobia and calmed his nerves by finding self-reassurance in the face of American lynching culture. It shows how the poem becomes a meditative lyric that contemplates the ways in which African Americans have previously survived and flourished near riverscapes.

Keywords:   The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Langston Hughes, lynching, Red Summer, Jesse Washington, Lige Daniels, Longview Race Riot, topophobia, self-reassurance, lynching culture

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