Segments in this Video

Introduction: Hughes' Dream Harlem (01:01)


Langston Hughes was born to a family of abolitionists. He was named after his grandfather. In 1947 he moved to Harlem, New York.

Walking Among His People (02:38)

Albert Davis bought and preserved the Langston Hughes House in Harlem. Hughes's secretary, George Bass, told his daughter Ramona stories about their evening walks through Harlem. Hughes, a world traveler, was unique among residents.

Vital to Harlem and the Arts (02:27)

Actress Ruby Dee and others recall Langston Hughes as caring, politically astute, and socially aware, a lover of people and places. His poem, "Negro," is recited. Hughes loved the excitement and rhythms of Harlem and its people.

The Typewriter (02:19)

The Royal typewriter on display in the Langston Hughes house is one of three found in the study. Among the papers found in the house was the deed for the property, along with lists, notes, reviews, and postcards from Hughes's travels.

The Children's Garden (01:38)

A photograph shows Langston Hughes standing, surrounded by children. The story is the children were pulling up plants from his yard, so he involved them in planting a garden. In the basement a sign was found with the children's names on it.

An Afro-American Sensibility (02:19)

Langston Hughes liked making people laugh. He was the unofficial ambassador of Harlem, making people feel welcome. He sensed something special about African-Americans, their history and culture.

Harlem Was a Swinging Place (01:53)

A woman recalls the Harlem of the 30s and 40s, when nightclubs offered music from classics to blues. The place was rich with talent. On Sunday afternoons actors would gather at Langston Hughes's house for readings.

Poetry About Life as a Black American (03:14)

To Langston Hughes, jazz and blues expressed the wide range of black America's experience. They were key elements of the Harlem Renaissance, a time when African-Americans started a movement to celebrate their culture.

Educating the Children (01:50)

Albert Davis shows the sheet music from Langston Hughes's song "Grab It and Hold It." Ossie Davis recalls visiting schools with Langston Hughes to share poetry with the children. Hughes poem "My Old Mule" got their attention.

Life for Me Ain't Been No Crystal Stair (02:54)

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis thought they could read Langston Hughes's poetry better than he could. They wanted him to step back and let them do it. Ruby Dee gives an emotional reading of "Mother to Son." She says that Hughes "heard everything."

Mentor to Young Writers (02:57)

Playwright Ron Milner recalls meeting Langston Hughes in 1962. Hughes helped many aspiring black writers. He made people at ease, and treated everyone well. He was encouraging and instructive, teaching people how to use their gifts.

The People's Poet (01:35)

Langston Hughes was the people's poet, writing about their struggles and dreams from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the 60s. A dramatic interpretation of a poem about police brutality is presented.

Artistic Foundations (02:27)

Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli and others talk about Langston Hughes's influence on their art and Harlem's place in black history. Harlem shows what blacks can achieve when in their own community. The gentrification of Harlem is a concern.

The Original Master Rapper (02:36)

Artists say hip hop is poetry, sharing the legacy of Langston Hughes, of Negro spirituals. Hughes is seen as the first black poet to keep it in the hood. He loved and respected black people. Hip hop should appreciate the man who loved Harlem.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (02:47)

On a tour of the Center, students learn that Schomburg collected information about black history and culture at a time when it was not valued. Langston Hughes's cremated remains are interred beneath the Center's Cosmogram.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers (01:06)

Langston Hughes began writing poetry in high school. On a train crossing the Mississippi at age 17 he wrote one of his greatest poems. There is a dramatic reading of the poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."

Cultural Folk Hero (03:07)

A group of poets young and old gathers for dinner at the Langston Hughes house. Sonia Sanchez and others reflect on his impact on their lives. Hughes used humor and simple language. His poetry was complex but not pretentious.

We Are the Blues (02:51)

The group of poets gathered at Langston Hughes's house continues to reflect on his influence while reading aloud several of Hughes's poems along with their own work.

Life in Harlem (01:50)

Willie Perdomo reads a poem about life in Harlem.

The Sugar Shack (02:16)

Sharrip Simmons notes that Langston Hughes sometimes struggled for credibility among his peers. Struggle is essential to art. Hughes could recognize and appreciate the struggles of the younger generation.

Stories Left to Tell (00:58)

Jessica Care Moore says Langston Hughes would be proud of young artists because of their sense of urgency to tell their stories. They are still fighting against the system. Hughes is sometimes idealized, but he was a regular person.

Standing on the Shoulders of Langston Hughes (02:44)

A young Harlem artist says he writes to honor Langston Hughes and others who went before him. Other artists reflect on what they learned from Hughes. Earl Majette performs his own poem "The Ghetto."

Honoring Langston Hughes (01:53)

Langston Hughes was honored with a commemorative stamp. On February 1, 2002, the centennial of his birthday, Hughes was honored throughout the world and in Harlem, at the Schomburg Center.

Omega Psi Phi (01:13)

Langston Hughes was a prominent member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Current members discuss how Hughes paid homage to his community through his works. He epitomized the greatest expectations for black people.

Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me (02:16)

Langston Hughes, who died in 1967, had choreographed his own funeral. He wanted people to come away with the spirit of his writing. Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and others recall the funeral and reflect on his legacy.

Dream Keeper (02:34)

The Impact Singers perform "Dream Keeper."

Credits: Hughes' Dream Harlem (02:12)

Credits: Hughes' Dream Harlem

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Hughes’ Dream Harlem

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Known as “Harlem’s poet laureate,” Langston Hughes was one of the most prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This lyrical program celebrates Hughes’ life and work, offering a vision of the esteemed poet in present-day Harlem and making a case for his impact on hip-hop music and the contemporary spoken-word community. Narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, the multilayered presentation includes roundtable discussions of Hughes’ contributions with poet Sonia Sanchez, music producer Damon Dash, and others, and a tour of his New York City haunts. (61 minutes)

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL49779

Copyright date: ©2002

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Imaginatively filmed, this fine program is recommended for both school and public libraries.”  Booklist


“The interviews are incredibly powerful. This fascinating film should be a part of African American history, poetry, and literature collections.”  Library Journal

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Not available to Home Video and Dealer customers.