When Langston Hughes visited Richmond, Virginia on Friday, November 19, 1926, it marked his first reading in the South. Hughes was an emerging poet of the Harlem Renaissance when he spoke at the chapel at Virginia Union University. On Thursday evening, the night before his reading, Hughes attended a small party given in his honor in the Richmond home of Hunter Stagg, remembered best as one of the founding editors of The Reviewer, a Richmond literary magazine that received national attention in the 1920s. The inter-racial party was quite daring for 1920s Richmond. "If Thursday evening in my library can by any stretch of imagination be called a party," Stagg wrote a friend, "it should go down in history as the first purely social affair given by a white for a Negro in the Ancient and Honorable Commonwealth of Virginia."
Stagg would write favorably of Hughes in his Richmond News Leader literary column March 21, 1927. Stagg wrote that Hughes' work should be recognized "as the authentic artistic expression of something in human nature, we are not quite prepared to say what, only that we are sure it is something very real."
This online exhibit created by VCU Libraries explores the little known visit by Langston Hughes to Richmond, Virginia. This site will be the starting point for future exhibits on Richmond's literary history of the 1920s. Included here is information on both Hughes and Stagg, and their mutual friend, writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964). A bibliography/links page enables researchers to continue to investigate these topics.
Visit this online exhibit HERE.
- Ray B.