“A Brief Note on Wallace Best’s Langston’s Salvation”
It’s good to know that there’s a resurgence in African American Religious History/Studies and that many fine scholars (such as Wallace D. Best on Hughes, Blum and Kahn on Du Bois, Harris on Ellison, Buck on Locke, etc.) are reassessing the religious sensibility and life of many prominent African American thinkers such as Langston Hughes.
What a fine book Prof. Wallace Best has written on one of my favorite poet-religious thinkers, Langston Hughes!
One of the most important features of this book is Best’s attempt to periodize and historicize Hughes’s attitude toward religion, which he also associates historically with Hughes’s poetic corpus, and some of Hughes’s fiction writings. We learned from Best that Hughes’s attitude toward faith has evolved over the course of his career as a writer, thinker, and public intellectual. Best’s attention to Hughes’s theology and its role in his writings is remarkable, illuminating, and nuanced. Third, the book is meticulously researched and well-written. Finally, “Langston’s Salvation” is a compelling story about the complexity of religion and theology in African American Intellectual tradition.
Nonetheless, in 1935, Hughes wrote an important play entitled “Emperor of Haiti: A Historical Play,” which was staged in 1938. Scholars have not paid attention to the religious ethos of this text, but Hughes has integrated many relgious modalities and expressions in the piece. In 2013, I wrote an article to explore Hughes’s engagement with religion, black heroism, and the Haitian Revolution in the play.
“Memory, the Spirit of the Revolution, and Slave Religion: The Representation of the Haitian Revolution in Langston Hughes’s Emperor of Haiti,” Journal of Postcolonial Theory and Theology 4:1 (April 2013): 1-35
Hopefully, future scholarship will reevaluate the attitude of Jessie Redmon Fauset, Hubert Harrison, James Weldon Johnson, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Marcus Garvey, George. Schuyler, A. Philip Randolph, etc. toward religion.
Thank you, sir, for writing this excellent text!