In the summer of 1966, Elizabeth Kray, then executive director of the Academy of American Poets, invited Langston Hughes, the leading poetic figure of the Harlem Renaissance, to read in New York City at the Guggenheim Museum with fellow New York poet Léonie Adams. The “dreary times” Hughes mentions likely refers to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the escalating war in Vietnam. However, August of 1966 was a particularly troubled time in American history. In the first week alone, the country witnessed a mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin, race riots in Lansing, Michigan, and Martin Luther King’s civil rights march in Chicago that ended with King being struck by a rock thrown by white protesters. Hughes would read at the Guggenheim with Adams that October, both poets introduced by Marianne Moore. He died the following spring on May 22.

Langston Hughes letter

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