The Ways of White Folks

by Langston Hughes
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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 198

The Ways of White Folks, a collection of fourteen short stories by the writer Langston Hughes—was published in 1934. At the book's core is a sense of growing anger and resentment by African Americans to the ways in which whites discriminate against them on a daily basis, both subtly and overtly. Almost all of the stories take place in the present day (meaning the 1930s), and a number of them are also set in the American South, where lynching was not uncommon, sadly. Perhaps the most famous of all of the stories is "Cora Unashamed." The titular character is an African American woman who has worked for a white family for almost her entire adult life. Cora has been with the family for so long and is such a familiar part of their world that she sometimes believes that she means more to them than she actually does; in the end, she is cruelly reminded that she just works for them—and nothing more. Most interactions between African American and white characters in the other stories in the book are in a similar vein, although some are more outwardly racist and violent. The overall tone is quite pessimistic.

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