Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 20 – Langston Hughes

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 20: Sixty years ago this month Langston Hughes came to town…

Still of Langston Hughes appearing on the CBUT programme The 7 O’Clock Show, 1958.

Poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was in Vancouver 60 years ago this month. He was a guest of lecturer Jacob Zilber of UBC’s English Department who invited Hughes to speak at the university. Later that same day Hughes appeared as a guest on the CBUT (CBC Vancouver) programme The 7 O’Clock Show where he recited his famous poem, The Weary Blues (1925), to a jazz accompaniment.

In a December 3, 1958, Vancouver Sun interview, held at Jacob Zilber’s kitchen table, Hughes explained to the local press that he was “a professional writer. I write for money, I don’t make a lot. I make less than a school teacher, less than a plumber. I have no house. No car, no dog. I have nothing but books.” In fact, Hughes was the first black writer in America to earn his living from writing. Talking about his writing, Hughes said “I write emotionally, from my feelings. I let my characters say something and then I go back and see what they’ve said.

This film clip shows African-American poet, Langston Hughes reciting his poem, “The Weary Blues” (1925) to jazz accompaniment by the Doug Parker Band (feat. Fraser MacPherson, Stan “Cuddles” Johnson) on the live CBUT (CBC Vancouver) program “The 7 O’Clock Show” in 1958. Host, Bob Quintrell introduces the performance.


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