While short stories by Langston Hughes may not be as widely recognized as his poetry or novels, there are plenty of reasons to explore this genre of literature produced by this Harlem Renaissance star. Hughes wrote primarily about the pride and struggles of the African-American community and his short stories cast both humorous and tragic light on the social relations of his time. Hughes wrote 47 short stories between 1919 and 1963.
The Ways of White Folks (1934)
Hughes' first short story volume is a collection of writings that reflect the sometimes humorous and often tragic results from tense race relations between whites and blacks. The stories cast light on the realities of life for African American in the 1920s and 1930s, complete with hostility, apathy and even empathy. Highlights of the volume include "Cora Unashamed," "Slave on the Block," "The Blues I'm Playing" and "Father and Son."
Simple Speaks His Mind (1950)
Hughes created a fictional character named Jesse B. Semple in the 1940s. The character appeared in a number of short stories for nearly two decades and he represented the spirit of a middle-aged African-American man living in Harlem. The Semple (or Simple) stories appeared in The Chicago Defender throughout the 1940s, and were compiled into a single volume in 1950, called Simple Speaks His Mind.
Simple Takes a Wife (1953)
Hughes' adoring public eagerly awaited the second collection of stories about the fictional black character Jesse B. Semple. This volume of short stories had evolved from Semple's early characterization as a regular working man to a social commentator. The success of this volume lead to a third Semple short story volume entitled Simple Stakes a Claim (1957).
Laughing to Keep from Crying (1952)
When this volume was published, Hughes was firmly established as the bard of Harlem, giving voice to African Americans from all walks of life. This collection of 24 short stories includes "African Morning," "Spanish Blood," "Professor," "Mysterious Madame Shanghai" and "Something in Common."