Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 24, Number 2, June 2002.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
A good deal of scholarship over the past thirty years has been devoted to Hughes's life and writings, particularly to his poetry and fiction and to his status as one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance. In time for his hundredth birthday in 2002, the University of Missouri Press is completing publication of The Collected works of Langston Hughes, a seventeen-volume collection that will ensure wide access to most of Hughes's writings for generations to come. Nevertheless, there is one genre in Hughes's vast oeuvre-the personal letter-that has gone largely unnoticed. Hughes was an avid letter writer, generating thousands of pages of epistolary prose over the course of his career. In 1980 Charles Nichols brought together the letters of Hughes and Ama Bontemps, Hughes's close friend and a fellow writer, in the Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters, 7925-7967 (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company), but the bulk of Hughes's epistolary writings has remained unpublished and, with the exception of a relatively small group of scholars using them for various critical and biographical projects, unread. The publication of Emily Bernard's edition, Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carll-an vechten, 7925-7964, is thus a cause for celebration among Hughes's many admirers. Useful to scholars seeking a better understanding of the complex relationship between Hughes and Van Vechten, the edition will also appeal to general readers for what it reveals about the everyday life of a beloved African-American writer and the close friendship he cultivated with a white patron of the arts whose name, according to Bernard, "became synonymous with white exploitation of black culture".