"WITH MY GRATITUDE TO YOU, AND THE NAACP": EXCEEDINGLY RARE PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF LANGSTON HUGHES' SELECTED POEMS, 1959, WITH HIS LENGTHY INSCRIPTION TO HIS CLOSE FRIEND AND BENEFACTOR, PHILANTHROPIST AMY SPINGARN DATED PRIOR TO PUBLICATION, ACCOMPANIED BY LAID-IN AUTOGRAPH NOTE TO HER, ALSO DATED PRIOR TO PUBLICATION, ON HUGHES' PERSONAL LETTERHEAD
(SPINGARN, Amy) HUGHES, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959. Octavo, original dark blue-gray cloth, original dust jacket.
First edition of Hughes' defining collection, in which his "long career as a poet had come full circle," this exceptionally memorable presentation/association copy containing his warm and personal inscription to Amy Spingarn in his trademark green ink, dated over two weeks prior to publication and reading: "Inscribed especially for Amy Spingarn, with my gratitude to you, and the NAACP in which you and your family have been guiding spirits, and to which my career is linked—many of these poems having first appeared in the Crisis, Sincerely—Langston, New York, March 6, 1959." Accompanying the book is Hughes' laid-in autograph note to Spingarn, in green ink on the recto of a leaf of his personal letterhead, also dated prior to publication, reading, "Dear Amy Spingarn, I'd wanted to bring my new book down to you myself—but have been out of town so much—and have to go to Newport today. But hope I may come to see you soon. I'll phone next week. Sincerely, Langston, March 20, 1959."
Hughes "was perhaps the most original of African American poets and, in the breadth and variety of his work, assuredly the most representative of African American writers" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 370). He had an "uncanny ability to speak across time, to speak directly, pointedly, to the changing circumstances in which we find ourselves, both as individuals and as a society… If one were looking for a single word to characterize Hughes, one could do worse than depthless… it speaks not only to his poetry, with its deceptive simplicity, but also to the strange duality of his character, the serene, unruffled surface and the surging currents of feeling beneath" (Campbell, Timeliness of Langston Hughes, 126). With Selected Poems, "Hughes long career as a poet had come full circle" (Rampersad II:295). He chose and arranged the poems in groups such as "Shadow of the Blues" and set Montage of a Dream Deferred apart.
Donald Gibson, in his introduction to Modern Black Poets, notes Hughes "has perhaps the greatest reputation (worldwide) that any Black writer has ever had. He differed from most of his predecessors among Black poets, and (until recently) from those who followed him as well, in that he addressed his poetry to the people, specifically to Black people." First edition, first printing: "First Edition" on the copyright page; first issue dust jacket with $5.00 price on front flap. Inscription in book and autograph note by Hughes each dated prior to publication: "Knopf officially published his Selected Poems… on March 23." While "Hughes revised many of his earlier poems, his changes on the whole were modest. He included, without revision, the entire text of Montage of a Dream Deferred" (Rampersad II:295). Featuring frontispiece and numerous full-page illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer, whose work also appeared in Hughes' Shakespeare in Harlem (1942). Dust jacket cover photograph of Hughes by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Bruccoli & Clark III:169. Philanthropist Amy Spingarn 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." She was also sister-in-law of Arthur Spingarn, who succeeded his brother as NAACP president (1940-66). Amy Spingarn early recognized Hughes' extraodinary talent and helped him financially to attend Lincoln University in the 1920s. Amy and her brother-in-law Arthur Spingarn, who succeeded Joel Spingarn as NAACP president, together formed close "emotional ties" with Hughes that lasted throughout 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, the year Selected Poems was published, Hughes was awarded the 45th annual Spingarn Medal.
Book fine; light edge-wear, small closed tear with mild soiling to near-fine dust jacket.