The Red Summer of 1919

W. Jason Miller

in Langston Hughes and American Lynching Culture

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780813035338
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038704 | DOI:
The Red Summer of 1919

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This chapter revisits “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes's first record of personal resistance against the threats of lynching. It highlights his most widely known poem penned while riding on a train headed through Texas during the Red Summer of 1919. It draws attention to the lynchings of Jesse Washington and Lige Daniels, as well as the Longview Race Riot. The chapter illustrates the kind of art which results from when a human being is forced to live in the shadow of such traumatizing dismemberment. It is an evidence of how Hughes overcame topophobia and calmed his nerves by finding self-reassurance in the face of American lynching culture. It shows how the poem becomes a meditative lyric that contemplates the ways in which African Americans have previously survived and flourished near riverscapes.

Keywords: The Negro Speaks of Rivers; Langston Hughes; lynching; Red Summer; Jesse Washington; Lige Daniels; Longview Race Riot; topophobia; self-reassurance; lynching culture

Chapter.  8890 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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