The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain


The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain


by Langston Hughes


One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, "I
want to be a poet—not a Negro poet, "meaning , I believe, "I want
to write like a white poet;" meaning subconsciously, "I would like to
be write like a white poet;" meaning behind that, "I would like to be
white." And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has
ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted that, with his desire to run
away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this
is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America—this
urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality
into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much
American as possible.


...

An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also
never be afraid to do what he might chose.


...

We younger Negro artist who create now intend to express our individual
dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are
glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly
too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased
we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either . We
build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of
the mountain, free within ourselves.