They were collaborators, literary gadflies, and champions of the common people. They were the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Their names were Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967), the author of “the Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Let America Be America Again.” After meeting at a great gathering of black and white literati, the two writers traveled together through the rural South collecting folklore, collaborated on a play, wrote scores of loving letters to one another – and then had a bitter and passionate falling-out. On today’s episode, author Yuval Taylor joins Jacke to talk about his book, Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal.
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The Harlem Renaissance, the great flowering of African American arts and culture in the early twentieth century, is hard to define and easy to admire. Coupled with the Great Migration, in which hundreds of thousands of Southern black workers moved to the rapidly industrializing cities of the North, the Harlem Renaissance was a time of great artistic expression, as musicians, visual artists, and writers forged a new consciousness. The works they produced reflected a spirit of change, progress, and optimism – but underlying the excitement were also a sense of struggle; reflective themes of nostalgia, guilt, and regret; and a clear-eyed view of racial relations in American culture. Host Jacke Wilson looks at the works of Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, and the many others who turned Harlem into the center of a worldwide movement.
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What can I say about the Writers Laughing series? It’s hugely popular and it’s not hard to see why. We all love books, we all love authors, we all love seeing them in their unguarded moments. And laughter is a beautiful thing. I suppose I’ve posted about 30 or so of these. Time for a top ten!