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A Note From The Directors

Langston Hughes Festival

A Note From The Directors

The Langston Hughes Festival announces its 41st annual award ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, November 14, 2019.

My mother used to take me to see all the plays that came to Topeka like Buster Brown, Under Two Flags, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We were very fond of plays and books.  Once we heard Faust…When I was in the second grade, my grandmother took me to Lawrence to raise me.  And I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother   Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books–where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas. And where almost always the mortgage got paid off, the good knights won, and the Alger boy triumphed.  Our mortgage never got paid off–for my grandmother was not like the other colored women of Lawrence.  She didn’t take in washing or go out to cook, for she had never worked for anyone. 
--Langston Hughes,  The Big Sea

When I was eight I told her I wanted to be a writer. Writing things down was the only way I understood how to be heard, there being so many women in my mother’s house at various times, talking. For years after I told my mother I wanted to be a writer, she would give me, as Christmas presents, writing tablets to write things down in; she would also give me books to read that she brought from the Liberation Bookshop on Nostrand Avenue. The books were almost always books of poems or novels, and were almost always by women, such as Alice Childress’ A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich, Maud Martha, by Gwendolyn Brooks, and anything by Paule Marshall. In between reading all of that, I also read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, more than once. She spent many hours with me alone, in the dark, in her bedroom, listening to me lie. Somehow, she knew that most writers became writers after having spent their childhood lying. Or perhaps she didn’t know that at all. She was extremely tolerant of my lies. She was interested in where my lies could take her.
-- Hilton Als,  The Women

The Langston Hughes Festival committee is incredibly excited about honoring Rita Dove with the 2019 Langston Hughes medal.  

Our daylong celebration begins with our symposium at 12:30PM and culminates in a 6:30 PM ceremony where we will award Rita Dove with the Langston Hughes Medal at Aaron Davis Hall.

We hope to see you in November!

Retha Powers and Vanessa K. Valdés, Directors