By Langston Hughes
Introduction via Arnold Rampersad.
Langston Hughes, born in 1902, got here of age early within the Nineteen Twenties. In The monstrous Sea he recounts these memorable years within the nice playgrounds of the decade--Harlem and Paris. In Paris he used to be a cook dinner and waiter in nightclubs. He knew the musicians and dancers, the drunks and dope fiends. In Harlem he used to be a emerging younger poet--at the heart of the "Harlem Renaissance."
Arnold Rampersad writes in his incisive new advent to The giant Sea, an American vintage: "This is American writing at its best--simpler than Hemingway; as basic and direct as that of one other Missouri-born writer...Mark Twain."
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Extra resources for Autobiography: The Big Sea
The room my mother lived in in Topeka was not in a house. It was in a building, upstairs over a plumbing shop. The other rooms on that ﬂoor facing a long hall were occupied by a white architect and a colored painter. The architect was a very old man, and very kind. The colored painter was young, and used to paint marvelous lions and tigers and jungle scenes. I don’t know where he saw such things in Topeka, but he used to paint them. Years later, I saw him paint them on the walls of cheap barrooms in Chicago and New York.
At ﬁrst, they did not want to admit me to the school, because there were no other colored families living in that neighborhood. They wanted to send me to the colored school, blocks away down across the railroad tracks. But my mother, who was always ready to do battle for the rights of a free people, went directly to the school board, and ﬁnally got me into the Harrison Street School—where all the teachers were nice to me, except one who sometimes used to make remarks about my being colored. And after such remarks, occasionally the kids would grab stones and tin cans out of the alley and chase me home.
Sparks said they were the best two girls in town and that he always traded with them. The Irish kid said his was the best girl he ever had. His cousin said: “Aw, nuts! ” (The Irish kid was just out of high school and this was his ﬁrst trip to sea. ) We waited for the launch that we had paid to take us back. Finally it came. At seven bells we went on toward Africa, the engines chugging soft and serene. The next day was Sunday and the missionaries wanted everybody to come to prayers in the saloon, but nobody went except the Captain and the Chief Mate.
Autobiography: The Big Sea by Langston Hughes