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Origins of the DreamHughes's Poetry and King's Rhetoric$
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W. Jason Miller

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060446

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060446.001.0001

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“Poem for a Man”

“Poem for a Man”

King’s Unusual Request

(p.108) 5 “Poem for a Man”
Origins of the Dream

W. Jason Miller

University Press of Florida

This chapter examines a celebration for A. Philip Randolph’s 70th birthday held in Carnegie Hall on January 24, 1960. The significance of this event includes the fact that King asked Hughes to write a special poem just for this specific occasion. This poem entitled “Poem for a Man” has never before been published or examined in print. The chapter is in part concerned with the complex story of how this request was made as well as the celebration itself. Hughes himself was initially asked to read the poem, then Ossie Davis was chosen to replace him, but finally Ruby Dee presented the poem. More importantly, this previously unpublished poem is analyzed for its distinctive reference to dreams, and its location on the program of events reveals just how King’s own comments during the event preempted Hughes’s ideas. Stanley Levison’s clear role in securing the poem and positioning King’s comments before the poem are given added attention in regards to the role this very important figure played in constructing King’s rhetorical persona.

Keywords:   A. Philip Randolph, Ossie Davis, “Poem for a Man”, Ruby Dee, Stanley Levison

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