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August 24, 2010

Langston Hughes Exhibit Celebrates African-American Writers

 Langston Hughes Fest Exhibit

From left: The ninth President of The City College of New York, Bernard Harleston; Dennis Brutus, Paule Marshall, and Alice Walker at the 1988 Langston Hughes Festival at CCNY. Source: The City College of New York Archives.


Since 1978, The City College of New York’s (CCNY) Langston Hughes Festival has honored eminent African-American writers including Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker with the Langston Hughes Medal.

This fall, City College offers a retrospective of Hughes medalists in a new exhibit, “The Langston Hughes Festival: A Celebration of African-American Writers.” It runs August 30 through December 31, 2010 in the Morris Raphael Cohen Library Archives Gallery, located in CCNY’s North Academic Center (NAC) building, 138th and Convent Ave., Manhattan. 

Presented during the festival, the Langston Hughes Medal recognizes exceptional writers of poetry, fiction, drama, autobiography and critical essays that celebrate the memory and tradition of Mr. Hughes, an acclaimed African-American writer, poet and scholar. The next festival is scheduled for November 2011.

“The exhibit pays homage to these superb writers of the African Diaspora and the event which has contributed to making CCNY an intellectual and social hub of this great city,” said Dr. Gordon Thompson, the exhibit co-curator, Langston Hughes Festival Director and an Assistant Professor of English at CCNY. “It also signals to our students that sharing stories is an honorable and worthy pursuit, particularly for African-Americans thirsting for closer contact with and greater awareness of model writers as they undertake the fine art of literary composition themselves.”

The exhibit draws from the wealth of primary documents that comprise the Langston Hughes Festival Collection, housed in the Cohen Library Archives and Special Collections. This collection includes Festival program covers depicting images of the honorees, digests of their legacy, press releases, photographs of Festival celebrants, posters, and audio recordings. 

In addition, the exhibit documents the Langston Hughes Choral Speaking Program at CCNY that every spring allows grammar school students to interpret Hughes’ work through recitations, dance, vocal and instrumental music, and drama.

Previous festival directors donated some of the material. Professor Thompson and Professor William Gibbons, his co-curator, sourced other items. CCNY Black Male Initiative students Taqiyya Haden and Conor Tomás Reed served as contributing writers for the exhibit.

An opening reception for the exhibit is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 15. The Langston Hughes Festival Collection is available for viewing by appointment in the Cohen Library Archives 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. For an appointment, please call Professor Sydney Van Nort at 212-650-7609. For more information about the exhibit, call the Cohen Library at 212-650-7271.