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Langston Hughes Movies & TV

Way Down South (1939)

Hughes co-wrote the screenplay for this musical, featuring child star Bobby Breen. Despite Hughes's lifelong attempt to smash stereotypes of black Americans in his work, the movie contains some uncomfortable racial caricatures in its portrayal of post-Civil War Louisiana. Former slaves are portrayed as simple, cheerful folk who happily accept their lot in life. The scene of Breen singing the spiritual "Motherless Child" is just weird.

Raisin in the Sun (1961)

The title of this movie (an adaptation of the play by Lorraine Hansberry) comes from a line in Hughes's poem "Harlem": "What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ Like a raisin in the sun?" The script focuses on the Younger family, a poor black family in Chicago in the 1950s. The play was the first on Broadway that was written by a black woman and directed by a black person. The film stars Sydney Poitier and is an American classic.

Looking for Langston (1989)

Though it was never confirmed in his lifetime, scholars widely believe that Langston Hughes was gay. Many in the gay community honor Hughes as an icon, noting the series of unpublished poems he wrote to an unidentified man named Beauty. This award-winning British short film is a collage of life as a gay black man during the Harlem Renaissance, splicing archival footage with acted scenes.

Hughes' Dream Harlem (2002)

This made-for-TV documentary is an excellent look at Hughes's life. The film includes tours of Hughes's favorite hangouts in Harlem and interviews with people who knew the poet well.

Salvation (2003)

This short film is based on Hughes's memoir The Big Sea. It is a dramatic interpretation of a scene in which a young Hughes finds himself in a moral quandary at a church revival, struggling with disillusionment with the promises of salvation, and with his desire to placate the preacher and the aunt who brought him there.

Brother to Brother (2004)

This film imagines the artistic community of 1920s Harlem. A young art student befriends an elderly homeless man named Bruce, who narrates the story of his life growing up as a young black gay writer during the Harlem Renaissance. Bruce recounts his friendships with such historical figures as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

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