In many ways, ‘‘The Blues I'm Playing’’ exemplifies the qualities that dominate the prose and poetry of Langston Hughes. The author is a major figure on the landscape of American poetry and may be the best-known on the landscape of African-American poetry. First published in Scribner's Magazine in May, 1934, and in the collection The Ways of White Folks that same year, ‘‘The Blues I'm Playing’’ combines Hughes's irony, his directness, and his use of dialect. It also conveys powerful messages about race relations, the beauty of blues and jazz, and the black artist's experiences in the white-dominated world of modern art. The story of a young black pianist, Oceola Jones, and her conflict with her self-appointed white patron, Dora Ellsworth, ‘‘The Blues I'm Playing’’ embodies Hughes's belief in the fortitude and dignity of black Americans.
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