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Portrait of Langston Hugheshttps://www.loc.gov/item/2005687122/
Source: Library of Congress

Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1901 in Joplin Missouri. Throughout his life, he published books of poetry, novels, plays, non-fiction works, and even children’s books. Today, we’re diving into two children’s books by Hughes: The First Book of Rhythms (1954) and Black Misery (1969). 

The First Book of Rhythms was published in 1954 as part of the Franklin Watts First Book series for children.

Photograph of the cover of The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes. The cover is maroon.
Cover of The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Robin King (1959). 

Hughes explains all kinds of rhythms - of nature, music, words, athletics, in daily life, and furniture - accompanied by illustrations by Robin King.

Check out the “Rhythms in Daily Life” below!

Photograph of an open page in The First Book of Rhythms. This section is entitled "The Rhythms of Daily Life" and features an illustration of a plane and of a train.
“The Rhythms in Daily Life”

Black Misery was published in 1969, two years after Hughes’ death. The book contains different definitions of “misery,” all of which are instances of racism experienced by Black children. These are paired with illustrations by (Lynette) Arouni, that (we think) perfectly express the devastating prose.

Photograph of a page in the children's book, Black Misery, by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Arouni. The text reads, "Misery is when the kid next door has a party and invites all the neighborhood but you." The accompanying illustration is of a Black child with their head in their hands, looking sadly up at the reader.
Page from Black Misery by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Arouni (1969).
Photograph of a page in the children's book Black Misery by Langston Hughes. The text reads, "Misery is when you find out your bosom buddy can go in the swimming pool but you can't." The illustration is of a Black child looking through a fence at other kids swimming in a pool.
Page from Black Misery by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Arouni (1969).
Final page of Black Misery by Langston Hughes. The illustration shows a Black child huddled against a black background.

Special Collections will continue to feature Black authors throughout February as we celebrate Black History Month. 

Keep an eye on our Instagram for more.

Questions? Email specialcollections@middlebury.edu