Lift Every Voice: The Enduring Power of Langston Hughes

Presented By
Kevin Young, Edgar Tidwell, Glenn North, Tahraji Milsap, Jayden James

It was 100 years ago, in June 1921, that a young Langston Hughes published what would become one of his best-known poems, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” He moved that fall into New York’s predominantly African American Harlem neighborhood and became a towering figure in the Harlem Renaissance artistic movement, promoting equality, condemning racism and injustice, and depicting Black culture, humor, and spirituality. 

The Library celebrates the life and work the Missouri-born poet, playwright, and novelist in a multifaceted event coinciding with National Poetry Month.  

Kevin Young, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, joins University of Kansas English professor and Hughes scholar Edgar Tidwell in a discussion of Hughes’ continued relevance, particularly to young people. Two Kansas City teens, Tahraji Milsap and Jayden James, read four of Hughes’ poems and share their thoughts during the conversation on his legacy. 

Glenn North, the inaugural poet laureate of Kansas City’s 18th & Vine Jazz District, offers opening remarks.  

The online event is part of a yearlong series, Lift Every Voice: A Nationwide Celebration of 250 Years of African-American Poetry, presented in partnership with the Library of America and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. It also comes amid preparations for the new national Maya Angelou Book Award, established by the Kansas City Public Library and six Missouri universities to recognize authors and notable new releases of American fiction and poetry focusing on social justice and inclusion. An inaugural winner – in poetry – will be announced in September. 

Additional National Poetry Month resources and activities >
This event is co-sponsored by: Library of America

Lift Every Voice: The Enduring Power of Langston Hughes

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