"THE MOST FAMOUS CHARACTER IN BLACK FICTION": PRESENTATION FIRST EDITION OF SIMPLE SPEAKS HIS MIND, THE FIRST BOOK IN THE ACCLAIMED "SIMPLE" SERIES, INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES
HUGHES, Langston. Simple Speaks His Mind. (New York): Simon and Schuster, (1950). Octavo, original green cloth, original dust jacket.
First edition of the breakthrough first book in Hughes' series featuring Jesse B. Simple—"Hughes' greatest contribution to American culture"—a very scarce presentation copy inscribed by him, "To F. L. M—— Sincerely, Langston Hughes."
Jesse B. Semple, nicknamed "Simple," is widely considered "the most famous character in black fiction." He is ranked with Huck Finn, and the Simple series of books, which began with this work, is viewed as "Hughes' greatest contribution to American culture" (Sullivan Harper, Not So Simple, 3). Hughes introduced Simple in his acclaimed Chicago Defender column, and he "quickly grew into the most popular aspect of the column and one of the more original comic creations in American journalism" (Smith, African American Writers, 169). Hughes described Simple as an "ordinary man on the street… who may not always know, but who often lives, those lines from the blues: When you see me laughing, I'm laughing to keep from crying" (emphasis in original). On publication, Simple Speaks His Mind won immediate praise: "You learn here at firsthand what it really means to be a man of color in the land of the free and the home of the brave—the tragic undertones of laughter… Simple is assured that 'in a democracy everybody's problems are related, and it's up to us to help solve them.' He is told that he himself shows definite prejudices. But he likes to point out that 'Columbus didn't start out with Jim Crow around his neck'" (New York Times). First edition, first printing: with no statement of editions or printings on the copyright page. Bruccoli & Clark III:162. Blockson 6379.
Book fine: closed tears to seams of bright near-fine dust jacket.