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“We Want an America That Will Be Ours”: Langston Hughes’s Dream of Democracy

Randal Jelks, Professor, Indiana University
THU FEB 1, 4:00 PM
Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Memorial Union


"We Want an America That Will Be Ours" is a fiery line from a 1935 speech given by Langston Hughes titled "To Negro Writers." This talk by Randal Jelks is an exploration of Langston Hughes's rich corpus as to what democracy means in the United States today. While he is best known for being a founding member of the 1920s "Harlem Renaissance," in point of fact he wrote during pivotal shifts during the 20th century: His writings covered the 1930s Great Depression, the global crisis of democracy in Asia and Europe that encompassed WWII, the Lavender and Red Scares, the emergence of African and Caribbean independence movements, Civil Rights protests, and the debates over Black power and the arts. This talk explores what democracy means in a time of fearful crisis and how we might creatively live together as citizens to reinvigorate democratic institutions.


Jelks, formerly a professor at KU for 16 years, is now the Ruth N. Halls Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University. Jelks is an award-winning author of four books, the most recent of which is Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America.


Tuttle Lecture


The Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecture in American Studies is named after William M. Tuttle Jr. Tuttle, a historian at the University of Kansas from 1967 until he retired in 2008. Tuttle taught American Studies in the university’s Department of History. This talk is sponsored by the departments of African and African American Studies; American Studies; English; History; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Film and Media Studies; the Hall Center for the Humanities; Vice Provost Nicole Hodges Persley; and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

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