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Jazz Day | Greater Richmond HS Jazz Band
Mary Morton Parsons Jazz Masters
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Partners in the Arts Grant | Poster Contest | Langston Hughes Project

Richmond Connection

Langston Hughes visited Richmond in 1926. The VCU Library has long had an exhibition regarding this visit titled “Something Very Real—Langston Hughes and Richmond, Virginia” in the Special Collections and Archives of the James Branch Cabell Library. The online portion of this exhibit is available for your review at www.library.vcu.edu/jbc/speccoll/stagg/. To quote from an excerpt:

When Langston Hughes visited Richmond, Virginia on Friday, November 19, 1926, it marked his first reading in the South. Hughes was an emerging poet of the Harlem Renaissance when he spoke at the chapel at Virginia Union University. On Thursday evening, the night before his reading, Hughes attended a small party given in his honor in the Richmond home of Hunter Stagg, remembered best as one of the founding editors of The Reviewer, a Richmond literary magazine that received national attention in the 1920s. The inter-racial party was quite daring for 1920s Richmond. “If Thursday evening in my library can by any stretch of imagination be called a party,” Stagg wrote a friend, “it should go down in history as the first purely social affair given by a white for a Negro in the Ancient and Honorable Commonwealth of Virginia....”

The party was held Thursday evening, November 18th, the night before Hughes’ reading at Virginia Union, at Hunter Stagg’s apartment, 2301 Park Avenue, corner of Strawberry Street and Park Avenue. Stagg shared the building with other family members. The entrance to Stagg’s apartment was on the Strawberry Street side of the building....

After the party Hughes was brought back to the Virginia Union campus Thursday night. On Saturday, November 20th, Hughes left Richmond for Columbus, Ohio where he had a speaking engagement with Countee Cullen, a young African American poet and novelist....

Stagg would write favorably of Hughes in his Richmond News Leader literary column March 21, 1927. Stagg wrote that Hughes’ work should be recognized “as the authentic artistic expression of something in human nature, we are not quite prepared to say what, only that we are sure it is something very real.”

The thank-you letter that Hughes wrote to Stagg on December 1, 1926 regarding the party held for him in Richmond (archived in Cabell Library) notes: “And I discover that not all Southerners are as vile as Mr. Menken of Baltimore and the Negro press make them out to be. I want to come back there sometime.”

 

 

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