Labyrinth Books and Princeton University’s Departments of Religion and African American Studies invite you to help kick off a 2-day conference on Langston Hughes (details) with a celebration of conference organizer and acclaimed scholar Wallace Best’s new book on Hughes: a new perspective on the role of religion in the poet’s work. He will be joined in conversation by Professor Judith Weisenfeld.
Langston's Salvation offers a fascinating exploration into the religious thought of Langston Hughes. Known for his poetry, plays, and social activism, the importance of religion in Hughes’ work has historically been ignored or dismissed. This book puts this aspect of Hughes work front and center, placing it into the wider context of twentieth-century American and African American religious cultures. Best brings to life the religious orientation of Hughes’s work, illuminating how this powerful figure helped to expand the definition of African American religion during this time. He argues that contrary to popular perception, Hughes was neither an avowed atheist nor unconcerned with religious matters. He demonstrates that Hughes’s religious writing helps to situate him and other black writers as important participants in a broader national discussion about race and religion in America.
Through a rigorous analysis that includes attention to Hughes’s unpublished religious poems, Langston’s Salvation reveals new insights into Hughes’s body of work, and demonstrates that while Hughes is seen as one of the most important voices of the Harlem Renaissance, his writing also needs to be understood within the context of twentieth-century American religious liberalism and of the larger modernist movement. Combining historical and literary analyses with biographical explorations of Langston Hughes as a writer and individual, Langston’s Salvation opens a space to read Hughes’s writing religiously, in order to fully understand the writer and the world he inhabited.
Wallace D. Best is Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952. Judith Weisenfeld is Professor of Religion at Princeton University Acting Chair of the Program in American Studies. She is the author of New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Religious Identity during the Great Migration, of Hollywood Be They Name: African American Relgion in American Film, and of African American Women and Christian Activism.