King’s Use of Hughes’s Most Popular Poem
This chapter contextualizes King’s fist known sermon on dreams against the popular success of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun. Because this play took its title from a line in Hughes’s poem “Dream Deferred,” the discussion reveals that King’s first extended engagement with the metaphor of the dream resulted in a consideration of “shattered dreams” that specifically parallels another image in Hughes’s poem. News coverage in the New York Times, a paper King himself read on a regular basis, is carefully researched and presented to establish the cultural context between King’s speech, Hansberry’s play, and Hughes’s poem. King’s sermon “Unfulfilled Hopes” takes some of its context from the sermons and writings of Frederick Meek and Howard Thurman. However, despite apparent connections to the ideas of J. Wallace Hamilton, tracing King’s own reading habits in regards to poetry suggests that Hughes’s poem is the clearest point of reference for King and his parishioners. To create the context of both Hughes’s popularity and this play’s remarkable success, the chapter concludes with an examination of advertisements in Ebony that featured Hughes himself selling Smirnoff Vodka.
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