Langston Hughes

"Simple on Indian Blood"

Actor Ossie Davis reads "Simple on Indian Blood," one of the "Simple" stories of Langston Hughes. Famous today for his poetry, Hughes also wrote protest columns. Jesse B. Semple, Hughes's quintessential Harlem resident, first appeared in the Chicago Defender newspaper. Semple's character became popular nationwide and over his lifetime Hughes produced five books and a Broadway play based on the "Simple Stories." Often set as dialogues, the humorous stories feature an overly reasonable, conciliatory narrator who comes into conflict with the outspoken and intransigent Jesse B. Semple.

"A Toast to Harlem"

"A Toast to Harlem," one of the "Simple" stories by Langston Hughes, read by actor Ossie Davis. Originally written as a newspaper column, this story revels in the Harlem of the 1940s, describing the neighborhood's joys and frustrations. Like the other "Simple Stories," this tale stars "Jesse B. Semple," a homespun philosopher, who engages in a dialogue with a mild- mannered narrator. Hughes himself was an influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and artistic movement that also produced Countee Cullen, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston.

"Last Whipping"

"Last Whipping" by Langston Hughes is read by actor Ossie Davis. This is one of the "Simple" stories, originally written as a newspaper feature. This humorous and somewhat sentimental dialogue stars the character of Jesse B. Semple, who describes a teenaged altercation with his aunt over a chicken. Over his lifetime, Langston Hughes produced books of poetry, social commentaries, novels, plays, and musical productions.

"Feet Live Their Own Life"

"Feet Live Their Own Life" by Langston Hughes is read by Ossie Davis. In this "Simple" story, the character of Jesse B. Semple discusses the subject of feet -- how you can tell a man's life by his feet, and of the many things his feet have done for him. (This includes kicking in a white man's window during the 1943 riots in Harlem.) As with all of Hughes's "Simple" stories, this piece is cast as a dialogue between the activist Jesse B. Semple and a more conservative narrator.

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