Simple's Uncle Sam

Langston HUGHES

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Item#: 110887 price:$2,800.00

EXCEPTIONAL PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF SIMPLE'S UNCLE SAM, INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION TO PHILANTHROPIST AND LIFELONG FRIEND AMY SPINGARN, WHOSE HUSBAND JOEL AND BROTHER-IN-LAW ARTHUR WERE PRESIDENTS OF THE NAACP

HUGHES, Langston. Simple's Uncle Sam. New York: Hill and Wang, 1965. Octavo, original yellow cloth, original dust jacket. $2800.

First edition of the final volume in Hughes' series featuring Jesse B. Semple, known as Simple, a presentation/association copy inscribed by Hughes within weeks of publication to his close friend and benefactor Amy Spingarn, wife of NAACP President Joel Spingarn and sister-in-law of Arthur Spingarn, who succeeded Joel as NAACP President, with Hughes boldly inscribing this copy in his characteristic green ink, "Another Simple—for Amy Spingarn—Affectionately Langston, New York October 11, 1965."

"Hughes was already established as a poet of the people when he began a column in the Chicago Defender in 1942… in 1943 Hughes created Jesse B. Semple to express the views of ordinary black men… none of his characters captures the hearts and minds of readers as did Semple, better known as Simple" (Harper, Introduction, Simple's Uncle Sam, xi). The nearly 50 stories in Simple's Uncle Sam—the last collection of Simple tales—moved critic J. Saunders Redding to declare "that with this volume Simple had taken his place among 'the great folk hero-gods in the American pantheon.'" The episodes "burst with references to real people, creating a graceful blend of fiction and real footage… Indelible events such as the bombing deaths of four little girls in a Birmingham Sunday School, the lynching of Emmett Till, and the murder of Medgar Evers become salient references (Harper, Simple's Last Moves, 202, xiv-xviii).

Simple's Uncle Sam memorably ends "as did no other volume—with that signature phrase, that code word that evokes Hughes' dream: 'Dream on, dreamer, dream on.'" Hughes began assembling episodes for this final volume "in late February 1965; it was published seven months later," and Hughes stopped writing his column that December. He had noted "that none of these episodes had been published in book form before. These episodes had come from the New York Post and Chicago Defender, plus two pieces previously published in the Saturday Review. Despite Hughes' disclaimer, Simple's Uncle Sam begins with 'Census,' a revised combination of two favorites from Simple Speaks His Mind [1950] that were also reprinted in The Best of Simple [1961]… other episodes take the reader to new territory" (Harper, Not So Simple, 199-207). "First edition October 1965" stated on copyright page. Issued simultaneously in cloth (this copy) and wrappers; no priority established. Bruccoli & Clark, 167. Blockson 6382. The recipient, philanthropist Amy Spingarn, was the wife of civil rights leader Joel Spingarn, who served as president of the NAACP (1930-39), and established the prestigious Spingarn Medal. Her brother-in law was attorney Arthur Spingarn, who succeeded his brother as NAACP president (1940-1966). 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). Joel Spingarn was, as well, a co-founder of the publishing house, Harcourt Brace, and a friend and colleague of W.E.B. Du Bois, "their personal rapport transcended race… In his first autobiography, soon after Spingarn's death, Du Bois wrote, 'I do not think that any other white man ever touched me emotionally so closely as Joel Spingarn" (Ellis, Race, War and Surveillance, 143). At Arthur Spingarn's death in 1971, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall paid tribute, saying, "If it had not been for Arthur Spingarn, we would not have an NAACP today" (New York Times).

Book fine; small closed tear to upper edge of bright about-fine dust jacket.

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