Langston Hughes Society Panel at the College Language Association Convention, April 2018

In Black Manhattan, his 1930 landmark study of the historical and literary development of Harlem, James Weldon Johnson describes “the greatest city of the New World” as “not merely a colony or a community or a settlement—not at all a ‘quarter’ or a slum or a fringe—but a black city, located in the heart of white Manhattan, and containing more Negroes to the square mile than any other spot on earth” (3-4). Through these words, Johnson acknowledges the undeniable impact of the Harlem Renaissance and the artistic/cultural explosion it engendered: it re-envisioned the Black community no longer as a subculture but as an epicenter of urban revival, intellectual inquiry, and creative expression championed by the Langston Hugheses, Dorothy Wests, and Claude McKays, to name a few, who emerged in the flourishing city. Most importantly, however, Johnson notes that “Harlem is more than a community; it is a large-scale laboratory experiment in the race problem, and from it a good many facts have been found” (281). After all, as a hub for cultural exchange where native sons/daughters and immigrants alike would settle, cities like Harlem across the United States proved testing grounds not only for a redefinition of the American identity itself but also for theories of racial uplift, cultural integration, Black aggregation (and the rise of black infrastructure), etc. that would forever transform American society at large. Seeking to explore the literary works of the early- to mid-twentieth century that capture this experience, the Langston Hughes Society invites proposals for its panel at the College Language Association Convention from April 4-7, 2018 in Chicago.

Topics for Consideration

This panel asks participants to consider the “large-scale laboratory experiment” that is the Black metropolis and how that experiment was represented in the works of Langston Hughes and his contemporaries. How do texts such as Wallace Thurman’s Infants of the Spring or Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral depict the experiment (successful or failed) of racial integration in the United States? How does Langston Hughes’ Tambourines for Glory or Claude McKay’s Harlem Glory depict the experiment of developing a unique Black infrastructure, from the numbers racket to the Black church to the labor movements of Sufi Abdul Hamid? Participants are encouraged to consider these texts and others with specific attention to the underexamined texts of the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. Special consideration will be given to papers that focus on the life and writing of Hughes or intersections with his artistic endeavors.

The deadline for proposals this year will be September 29, 2017. Please submit a 250- to 500-word abstract and a brief CV that includes rank/status (e.g. ABD, Associate Professor, etc.), as well as institutional affiliation (independent scholars are encouraged to submit proposals as well). Proposals should be submitted to the Langston Hughes Society Secretary, Dr. Christopher Allen Varlack, at lhsociety.secretary at and note “LHS at CLA Proposal” in the E-mail subject line. All proposals should be included as an attachment, preferably as a single PDF file. Confirmation of receipt will be sent within two business days of submission.

While interested participants do not need to be members of the Langston Hughes Society to submit a proposal for the aforementioned panel, all presenters must be members of the LHS and the College Language Association in order to participate in this panel. For more information about the LHS or CLA, please visit or respectively.