American Translators: Langston Hughes

December 18, 2020

By Nancy Kuhl

Langston Hughes

The career of poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967), a central figure during the Harlem Renaissance, spanned five decades. Apart from poetry, he wrote short stories, plays, newspaper columns, children’s books, and pictorial histories, and he also edited several volumes of prose and fiction by African-American and African writers. Through his writing and through his extensive travels and lecture tours he came into direct contact with a remarkable array of writers, artists, activists, and performers. He also made several translations from the Spanish, and was himself widely translated. Of particular note is his correspondence with his Slovakian translator. The Langston Hughes Papers span the years 1862-1980 and provide a view of the life and work of the poet and American literary icon as seen through personal snapshots, pages of manuscripts, printed items, sheet music, and ephemera documenting his wide travels and public appearances.

 Langston Hughes Papers Collection Guide

I. Langston Hughes Translations

Slovak translator y Ing Zdenko Alexy’s questions to Hughes about certain images and phrases, and Hughes’s responses, July 9 1951 (VIEW)
Call Number: JWJ MSS 26 Box 279 folder 4581 (request)

Fate at the Wedding (Bodas de Sangre), drafts, typescript and carbon, corrected 1938 (VIEW)
Call Number: JWJ MSS 26, Box 424, Folder 9421 (request)

Nicolas Guillen, Cuba Libre, notes for translation n.d. (VIEW)
Call Number: Call Number: JWJ MSS 26, Box 424, f. 9429 (request)

Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, notes 1957-59 (VIEW)
Call Number: JWJ MSS 26, Box 425, f. 9455 (request)

Mistral Selected Poems, preparatory material, drafts 1957 (VIEW)
Call Number: JWJ MSS 26, BOX 425, f. 9456 (request)

II. Correspondence

Letters from Dudley Fitts to Langston Hughes (VIEW)
Note: 7 Sept 1941: Fitts’ invitation for Hughes to translate poems for An Anthology of Contemporary Latin American Poetry, with alterations; Dudley Fitts to LH 21 October 1941 & LH to DF 25 October 1941 (carbon copy of response to DF’s suggestions)

Call Number: JWJ MSS 26, Box 62, folder 1197 (request)

Letters from Langston Hughes to Dudley Fitts (VIEW)
Note: 25 Oct 1941; 8 May 1942; 18 June 1942; n.d. “Line by line translation”
Call Number: YCAL MSS 296, Box 1, folder 29 (request)

Hughes to Franciso Garcia Lorca (Frederico’s brother); 11 Dec 1950 (regarding permissions) (VIEW)
Call Number: JWJ MSS 26, Box 66, folder 1270 (request)


Mary Barnard | Robert Fitzgerald

Ezra Pound | Louis Zukofsky | Dudley Fitts

The Practice of Literary Translation: Resources