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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 534

Langston Hughe's powerful narrative is a collection of short stories, illuminating the race relations and culture of America in the 1920's and 30's. He addressed both positive changes and problems that remained in the nation. While Hughes is known more for his poetry, this collection of stories is poignant and...

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Langston Hughe's powerful narrative is a collection of short stories, illuminating the race relations and culture of America in the 1920's and 30's. He addressed both positive changes and problems that remained in the nation. While Hughes is known more for his poetry, this collection of stories is poignant and famous.

Crucible of the South, find the right powder and you’ll never be the same again-the cotton will blaze and the cabins will burn and the chains will be broken and men, all of a sudden, will shakes hands, black men and white men, like steel meeting steel.

In one story, the character of Milberry laments about how his white boss unfairly treats him.

The ways of white folks, I mean some white folks, is too much for me. I reckon they must be a few good ones, but most of ’em ain’t good–leastwise they don’t treat me good. And Lawd knows, I ain’t never done nothin’ to ’em, nothin’ a-tall.

In another story, a white, wealthy couple named the Pembertons raise an orphaned black boy named Arnie; however, their decision to help him is tainted by their arrogance and prejudicial bias. They believe that,

nobody in the town need ever again do a good deed: that this acceptance of a black boy was quite enough.

Later, when grown, Arnie visits Paris where he experiences a culture in which race did not play a dividing role.

Paris and music and cocktails made you forget what color people were- and what color you were yourself. Here it didn’t matter- color...

Arnie felt more free in France, as he did not feel indebted to others.

For the first time in his life Arnie was really happy. Somebody had offered him something without charity, without condescension, without prayer, without distance, and without being nice...”

Another character of a different story, Roy, also experiences less prejudice in Europe than in America. Upon his return from overseas, he is again aware of the racial divide:

For the first time in half a dozen years, he felt his color. He was home...

One character, Pauline, openly expresses her disdain for whites.

I laugh with ‘em and they think I like ‘em. Hell, I’m from Arkansas where the crackers lynch [them] in the streets. How could I like ‘em?

Hughes also highlighted the movement of the Harlem Renaissance and a growing appreciation for talented, soulful African-American expression in music and art.

So they went in for the Art of Negroes—the dancing that had such jungle life about it, the songs that were so simple and fervent, the poetry that was so direct, so real. They never tried to influence that art, they only bought it and raved over it, and copied it. For they were artists, too.

Specifically, Hughes shared about the powerful music of jazz and the blues, as many African-Americans became recognized, respected, and renowned.

This is mine. . . . Listen! . . . How sad and gay it is. Blue and happy -- laughing and crying. . . . How white like you and black like me. . . . How much like a man. . . . And how much like a woman. . . . Warm as Pete's mouth. . . . These are the blues. . . . I'm playing.

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