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A New Discovery of Langston Hughes: Finding Rivers of Soulful Inspiration

American poet, novelist, and playwirght, Langston Hughes at work on his typewriter American poet, novelist, and playwirght, Langston Hughes at work on his typewriter

Images of Books & Authors in Unexpected Places

Every time I visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, I make certain to walk into the center of the African cosmogram, at the entryway to the Langston Hughes Auditorium.

African-Cosmogram Honoring-LangstonHughes-and-Arturo-A-Schomburg Photo-Credit Luvon-Roberson 650x487The African Cosmogram, in honor of Langston Hughes and Arturo A. Schomburg, located at the entryway to the Langston Hughes Auditorium. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson, Book Editor, What's The 411 Networks

Long flowing sapphire-blue lines weave their way from the rust-brown innermost circle of the cosmogram, spilling outward only to stop at the walls of the Schomburg itself. The cosmogram represents Langston Hughes's poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers:

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

While I've long loved the brilliant flow of both the poem's rhythm and the rivers depicted in the cosmogram, it is only recently that I made a new discovery about that space I've so often stood at the center of: Beneath it, Hughes's remains are interred in a stainless steel vessel.

I did not know.

I only knew that I was drawn to that center-space, which is inscribed with this verse from his poem:

"My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

Another Reflection on the Image:

"The circle is an awesome and active trail, a continuing cycle of connections, in the lives of Schomburg, Hughes, and all others who come to the Schomburg Center. To those who believe there is simply too much bad mojo in the world, this circle holds the cure."

Christopher P. Moore, Curator and Special Projects Coordinator, Schomburg Center.


LANGSTON HUGHES: Inspires Writers of Today

It seems fitting to think of Langston Hughes in this space at this time. He was born on February 1, 1902 and died on May 22, 1967, and now, nearly 50 years later, continues to inspire.

LangstonHughes Poster Created-by-Ruth 495x700

On February 19, 2015, The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College directed by Dr. Brenda Greene, celebrates his life and voice in Langston Hughes, Personal and in the World, a program with readings and conversation on the influence of his work on contemporary literature and writers. Professor Gordon Thompson, director of the Langston Hughes Festival at CCNY, and Professor Robert Reid-Pharr, director of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, at CUNY's Graduate Center, among others, lead the program's homage to Hughes.