"AMERICA IS A DREAM… WE ARE AMERICA": RARE PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF FREEDOM'S PLOW, 1943, WARMLY INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES TO HIS LONGTIME FRIEND AND BENEFACTOR, PREEMINENT PHILANTHROPIST AMY EINSTEIN SPINGARN
HUGHES, Langston. Freedom's Plow. New York: Musette, (1943). Octavo, staple bound as issued, original cream wrappers; pp. 16.
First edition of Hughes' "magnificent" poem, a rare presentation/association copy inscribed by him on the copyright page to philanthropist Amy Spingarn, his benefactor and close friend, who was the widow of Joel Spingarn, founder of the prestigious Spingarn Medal and NAACP president from 1930-39, with Hughes' inscription reading, "For Amy Spingarn—With all my best, Sincerely, Langston." In 1959 Hughes would win the 45th annual Spingarn Medal.
"Arguably, Langston Hughes was Black America's most original poet. Certainly he was Black America's most representative writer" (African American Writers, 174). Freedom's Plow, his "magnificent… longest poetical piece by far," speaks to "the American will to prosperity, happiness and liberty" (Rampersad, Life II:58). Following its initial appearance in the April, 1943 issue of Opportunity, "Hughes made extensive changes in the stanza and line lengths of the poem from its first appearance to the final version in Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1959)" (Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, 655n). Lines 182-187 and 196-197 were altered from the earlier version, and before the poem's final published form in 1959, Hughes deleted lines 17 and 75. First issue, with light blue ink and "For Victory" stamp on verso of rear wrapper. Bruccoli & Clark III:160. This very memorable presentation/association copy is inscribed by Hughes to philanthropist Amy Spingarn. She was the wife of Joel Spingarn, who served as president of the NAACP (1930-39) and was founder of the Spingarn Medal, issued annually by the NAACP to honor "the highest and noblest achievement of the American Negro." In 1925 Hughes entered the Amy Spingarn Contest in Crisis magazine and won poetry and essay prizes. She then helped Hughes financially to attend Lincoln University from 1926-30 and was, as well, the sister-in-law of Arthur Spingarn, who served as NAACP president (1940-66) after Joel Spingarn's death. Upon meeting Amy and Arthur Spingarn in 1925, close "emotional ties were formed between Hughes and the Spingarn family that lasted for the rest of their lives. As Hughes' pro-bono attorney and personal friend for more than 40 years, Arthur Spingarn made the poet's concerns his own… Amy became a secret benefactress of the poet and a source of enduring encouragement" (Berry, Langston Hughes, 67). In 1959, Hughes would be awarded the 45th annual Spingarn Medal.
A fine inscribed copy with an exceptional provenance.