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Langston Hughes's poem "Mulatto"

Langston Hughes's poem "Mulatto" first appeared in his volume of poetry titled Fine Clothes to the Jew, first published in 1927 (Barksdale 4). Fine Clothes was Hughes's second collection of verse; The Weary Blues was his first, and it appeared to generally admiring reviews in the national press and black newspapers and magazines in 1926 (Rampersad xiii). Fine Clothes, however, was less warmly received than The Weary Blues because of the bold depiction of lower-class African-American life in its poems (Rampersad xiii). "Mulatto" was one such poem.

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1, 1902, the second son of James Nathaniel Hughes and Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes (Berry 1). Langston was the last child of his parents' marriage. Berry maintains that Langston Hughes' earliest impressions were of Lawrence, Kansas, where his mother took him to live after his father moved out when he was slightly more than a year old (Berry 3). She argues that the frequent moving about from one place to another, the absence of a father, and the presence of poverty and racial discrimination--each in its way--marked him for life but never made him bitter (Berry 3). The Big Sea, for example, offers a genial, moving account of his life from his birth in Joplin before his mother took him to Lawrence (Rampersad xii).

In the absence of a father, Langston Hughes spent his formative years until the age of puberty under matriarchal influence. This influence would later manifest itself in some of his fiction--most notably in his first autobiographical novel, Not Without Laughter (Berry 6). Lonely as a child, Langston turned for comfort turned to "books, and the wonderful world in books" (Rampersad 1). Later he would recall the inspiration of the Bible in his early life, as well as the inspiration of W. E. B. DuBois, whose The Souls of Black Folk defined for many people the essential drama of people born black in Am...

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Langston Hughes's poem "Mulatto". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:33, May 25, 2020, from