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Great Gay Poets Friday! Langston Hughes



Editor’s Note:

This is our fourth and, sadly, final post in honor of National Poetry Month, thanks to guest blogger Julia Garbowski, who conceived the idea and has done an excellent job sharing with us some of her favorites, including last week’s Edna St. Vincent Millay. Julia also shared with us great posts about Oscar Wilde and Hart Crane, and Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. This week, Julia looks at several poems by Langston Hughes.

I’m pleased to announce that Julia will be permanently joining our quickly-growing team here at The New Civil Rights Movement, and she’s working on some great ideas for future pieces. Welcome, Julia!

Langston Hughes, born in 1902, wrote one of his most well known poems at the age of seventeen. He wrote it on an envelope that he had in his pocket while riding on a train from Missouri to Mexico where he hoped to reconnect with his father. Raised mostly by his storytelling grandmother who had been one of the first women to attend Oberlin College, he had a strong sense of his black heritage.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

By Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow

of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went

down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn

all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like rivers.

His “rivers” included a family history of prominence and folk heroes although financial stability was lacking. His white grandfather had staunchly insisted on marrying the black woman he loved, his Great-Uncle, John Mercer Langston, was the first black man to be elected to Congress in Virginia, and his grandmother’s first husband had been killed as a result of John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry. From a very early age he was given a purpose in life, –to work for equal rights for Black Americans.

In “Black Poets of the United States” Jean Wagner says of the poem that it “heralded the existence of a mystic union of Negroes in every country and every age.” But Langston Hughes’ rivers also included a stream of sexuality that he chose to hide. He carefully guarded his sexual preferences leaving some to suspect that he had none at all, while others point out that in order for him to be prominent in the Harlem Renaissance and continue to work toward black civil rights, he could not have revealed himself as gay during that time period. He died in 1967 which was two years before the Stonewall Riots that are often cited as the beginning of the gay rights movement .

When I read his poems they call me back to the black civil rights movement, but as in the following example written when he was just 20, they also speak to a greater truth about equality and human worth.

Question [1]

By Langston Hughes

When the old junk man Death

Comes to gather up our bodies

And toss them into the sack of oblivion,

I wonder if he will find

The corpse of a white multi-millionaire

Worth more pennies of eternity,

Than the black torso of

A Negro cotton-picker?

While Arnold Rampersad’s most definitive work on his life “The Life of Langston Hughes,” does not provide irrefutable evidence that he was gay, it does include sufficient evidence to build the argument. Even Rampersad writes that Hughes was attracted to black men, finding them “appealing and sexually fascinating.” But more compelling is that the question of his sexuality brings his work and life into coursework for Gay Studies at major universities and colleges throughout the country, including Yale, the University of Chicago and U.C. Berkeley.

The truth is that his sexuality was a secret; he did not claim or deny it in any case. Hughes is widely believed to have been gay because of connections to gay men and gay culture, long close friendships with out gay men, travels with companions, such as black gay artist Zell Ingram, and lack of relationships with women. Some of his poems also are given as evidence including “Young Sailor,” “Waterfront Streets,” “Café 3AM,” (about a police raid on a gay bar), and a series of unpublished poems claimed to be to a black male lover named “Beauty.”

The film “Looking for Langston” written and directed by Isaac Julien, produced by Nadine Marsh-Edwards in 1992 gives a much more definite portrayal of him as homosexual. I would love to think that Hughes thought his sexuality did not matter and therefore kept it private, but, knowing about his focus on the inequality of blacks in America, and knowing that he held close connections with gay culture; I cannot help but believe that he knew of a need to fight for the civil rights of gays as well, even if he was not ready to embrace that challenge.

I like to read my favorite Langston Hughes poem in the context of gay rights and the New Civil Rights Movement.

I, Too, Sing America

By Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”



They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

For more: “The Life of Langston Hughes” Vols I, II, by Arnold Rampersad, (Oxford University Press, 1986) “Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten” edited by Emily Bernard (Vintage Books, 2001). Also recordings at Smithsonian Folkways Records were made in 1955 of Langston Hughes reading his poems. Listen online at various sites, or look for CD: “The Dream Keeper and Other Poems of Langston Hughes” of the Folkways recordings.

Julia Garbowski lives in Royal Oak, MI and has returned to writing after 25 years of running a farm and market in Door County WI. She grew up in Sag Harbor, NY. Her B.A. in Communications is from the University of Wisconsin. She belongs to the Michigan Literary Network and her twitter name is @driftnotes.

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‘Indictment Anytime’: Experts Explain Significance of Trump’s Attorneys Meeting With DOJ – Warn Plea Deal Possible



Legal experts responding to news Donald Trump‘s legal team Monday morning walked into the U.S. Dept. of Justice agree it likely means Special Counsel Jack Smith is nearing a charging decision, but warn it could also mean the ex-president, under criminal investigation for unlawful handling of classified documents, among other possibly unlawful acts, might be offered a plea deal to avoid serving time in prison.

Trump’s attorneys being at DOJ “suggests indictment anytime. This would be the last step, and if neither side offers something worth thinking about, then DOJ would pull the trigger,” says former Dept. of Justice official Harry Litman.

“Plenty of possible angles they might choose to play including guilty plea for noncustodial sentence,” he adds, referring to any possible plea bargain with no sentence behind bars. “But unless Trump side leaks, discussions will stay confidential.”

READ MORE: ‘No Longer the Lord’s Chicken’: ‘Christian Woman’ Says She’s ‘Grieving’ Over ‘Woke’ Chick-fil-A Hiring a Diversity Officer

CBS News’ Robert Costa and Rob Legare broke the news that Trump’s attorneys had gone into DOJ. Responding to that, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance offers up a few possible scenarios.

“The smart move here for Trump is a guilty plea to a misdemeanor if DOJ will offer one & a felony with no jail time if they won’t,” she says, pointing to her Substack newsletter where she discussed this very subject Sunday night.

“For those who dislike these possible outcomes (I would number myself in that group), it’s nonetheless important to understand the prior precedent that will shape DOJ’s charging decisions & any plea offers in this matter. This is Trump’s best possible outcome, not the country’s,” says Vance.

READ MORE: Classified Pentagon ‘War Plans’ Document Trump Bragged About in Audio Recording Is Missing: Report

She adds, “Trump seems incapable of saying he’s done anything wrong. To plead, he’d have to say under oath in open court that he was guilty. It’ll be interesting to see if he can do that, or would rather run the risk of being convicted of felonies that carry up to 20 years in custody.”

“Good sign,” says former federal prosecutor of 30 years, Glenn Kirschner, observing, “if Jack Smith had decided against charging Trump, there would be no need for this meeting. The last federal prosecutors often do before indicting is meet with the target’s defense team & give them an opportunity to present any evidence or arguments they want to offer.”

Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County, Florida state’s attorney on MSNBC Monday morning said he believes Trump will be indicted this week.

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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Trump’s Attorneys Just Walked Into DOJ – Special Counsel Expected to Reach Charging Decision Soon: Report



Attorneys for Donald Trump Monday morning entered the U.S. Dept. of Justice, as expectations grow the ex-president could soon be charged in his unlawful removal, retention, and refusal to return hundreds of classified and top secret documents.

CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa reports sources say Special Counsel Jack Smith is expected to reach a decision on charging Trump in the case soon.

“Trump’s lawyers just spotted by @CBSNews entering the Justice Department, per @RobLegare who is on site,” Costa tweeted at 10:09 AM ET. He says that “comes as sources tell me the special counsel is moving toward a charging decision in the classified documents case.”

Citing sources, Costa adds, “Trump’s lawyers are expected to raise concerns about how prosecutors have handled atty-client questions during the grand jury but there is no sign the special counsel is going to waver from how he and his team have handled the crime-fraud exception…”

READ MORE: Former DOJ Official Says Audio of Trump Admitting to Keeping ‘War Plans’ Makes it ‘Inconceivable’ He Will Not Be Charged

Trump’s attorneys being at DOJ is a possible sign the Special Counsel could be close to asking a grand jury to bring charges against the one-term, twice impeached ex-president who is currently facing 34 felonies in an unrelated New York case.

“Often defense attorneys are given the opportunity to ‘pitch’ the DOJ before a charging decision is made,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti notes. “Trump’s team visiting DOJ likely means that we won’t see charges in the next few days—as their pitch is considered—but could potentially see charges in the next 5 to 15 days.”

The Special Counsel’s grand jury is reportedly reconvening this week.

Legal experts and Trump watchers have been expecting the ex-president to be charged as soon as this week, after CNN reported Special Counsel Jack Smith had an audio recording of Trump admitting to holding on to a classified document, described by some as “war plans” against Iran. In that audio Trump reportedly also said he knew the document was classified, and said he wished he could share it, which destroys multiple claims he has made in his defense of retaining the documents.

That document is still missing, and the Pentagon appears greatly concerned about the document.

On Sunday night Trump lashed out at Smith, calling him, the DOJ, and the FBI all “Marxist,” and described the investigation into his possibly illegal handling of classified documents as the “boxes hoax.”


This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. 

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Right-Wingers’ Latest Chick-fil-A Meltdown Proves They Have ‘Officially Jumped the Shark’: Morning Joe Panel



MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Donny Deutsch mocked conservatives for running the “woke” hysteria into the ground.

Ron DeSantis and other Republicans have screeched about the so-called “woke agenda,” which they warn will undermine American values and put children at risk from all manner of threats, but the “Morning Joe” host said most voters simply don’t care about that manufactured issue.

“Joe Biden, 350 pieces of bipartisan legislation signed, and Ron DeSantis and everybody else is talking ‘woke, woke, woke, woke, woke,'” Scarborough said. “Again, something that I said on this show and I heard a lot about from liberals, even, in 2021. You’re not hearing it, again, in part because there have been some corrections. You have the head of Berkley Law School, Yale Law School, Stanford Law School going, ‘Hold on, hold on, we’re not going to let these woke mobs get in the way of free speech.’ They’re saying it at the most elite law schools in America, so common-sense Americans are going, ‘Okay, there may still be a problem, but they’re working on it,’ and yet these Republicans are all acting like it’s 2019, 2020 and they just keep freaking out. Well, Joe Biden is talking about job training and signing bipartisan bills.”

Conservatives have turned against Chick-fil-A for hiring a vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion — which actually happened over a year ago but largely escaped notice until recently — and Deutsche said that was a nadir for “woke” hysteria.

READ MORE: ‘Cowards’: Soledad O’Brien rips former CNN colleagues for silence as Chris Licht wrecks the network

“The ‘woke’ movement officially jumped the shark,” he said. “Joe, you touched on this earlier with the Chick-fil-A move. Right-wing company, I don’t say that negatively, very family values, closed on Sundays, the head of the — [company chairman] Dan Cathy came out against same-sex marriages. They’re very conservative. Now, all of a sudden — you’re right, very conservative, obviously a great company, and they came under fire they have a DEI initiative, diversity, coming under fire from right-wing groups. That’s the official moment that ‘woke’ officially jumped the shark and put Fonzie on skis in Honolulu.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

Image by Hector Alejandro via Flickr and a CC license

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