Langston Hughes, one of the Harlem Renaissance’s most renowned poets, accepted a columnist position with the Chicago Defender. In Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender, there is a collection of Hughes’ columns on segregation, Jim Crow laws,
Langston Hughes, one of the Harlem Renaissance’s most renowned poets, accepted a columnist position with the Chicago Defender. In Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender, there is a collection of Hughes’ columns on segregation, Jim Crow laws, World War II and the treatment of Black soldiers, communists, attitudes of chivalry from Black men to white women, the Soviet Union, Hitler, clarity on how not all white people were against Black and the influence of music. Apparently an animal lover, Hughes also had a column about how badly house animals were treated during the war, too, being left abandoned and starving.
Most of the book is filled with anecdotes of how Black soldiers were treated during World War II, from eating after the animals were served to being forced to stand on trains with their uniforms on in brutally hot weather––with no air conditioning–– and not being served in the diners. Even a Black man trying to help a white woman off the train was met with raised eyebrows. Hughes told a story about how a Black man let the woman fall on her face for fear of being accused of touching her improperly.
Although the Jim Crow stories seemed repetitive, Hughes’ attitude was, “Why not write about the stupidities of Jim Crow each and every day in each and every issue of each and every Negro paper?” He compared cases of shell-shock, or battle- fatigue, with soldiers who were fed up with discrimination and had “segregation-fatigue.” Important pieces of history are introduced in the book, such as November 19, 1944, when 50 young Black sailors were found guilty of mutiny for refusing to load their ammunition to kill 345 seamen, who were mainly Black. Another interesting story is that of a Black soldier who was at his wit’s end with having to find “colored” bathrooms and finally got his gun, went to a “whites only” latrine, and every time a white soldier came by, he cocked the trigger and dared someone to make him get up.
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