Langston Hughes Bonus Feature Screened At Bus Boys and Poets

On June 5, 2018 at 6:00 pm, the bonus feature “Langston Hughes: He was a poet who embraced the people” from the documentary Rosenwald was screened at Bus Boys and Poets on 14th and V St in Washington, DC. This popular hangout for food and thought is named after a true story about how Hughes was discovered.

Local activist and poet E. Ethelbert Miller and director Aviva Kempner joined the screening. Director Aviva Kempner had the pleasure of introducing the clip on Langston Hughes, spoke of her work on making the Rosenwald film and what an honor it is to pay tribute to the original busboy himself!

After the screening, E. Ethelbert Miller spoke about the leading events that happened to Langston Hughes prior to his receiving of the Rosenwald grant in 1931. Much like today, Ethelbert noted, it was all about connections and contacts. Langston associated with many affiliates of the NAACP who recommend he receive a grant from the Rosenwald Fund.

Ethelbert read an excerpt that Langston Hughes wrote, recalling his fond memories as a busboy and working at the Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C., how the experience lead to him meeting the famous writer and poet Vachel Lindsay and slipping him three of his poems that would later lead to his discovery as a poet. Hughes had read in the newspaper that Lindsay would be staying at the Wardman hotel, whic shows how being up on the news can be helpful.

Ethelbert enlightened us on the breadth of work Langston Hughes produced throughout his life including “…poems, novels, short stories, memoirs, children’s books, plays, translations, opera librettos, anthologies, newspaper columns. He was so prolific that, in a 1956 letter, he complained about “a book due yesterday that I haven’t even started (2008, Dwight Garner).” Also, unknown to many, Langston also worked as a translator as he was fluent in Spanish and French. His most notable translation of Cuban poet and activist Nicolás Guillén’s, poems, titled Cuba Libre.

Post screening Aviva advised audience members to visit the room where Langston Hughes stayed during his time in Washington DC at the 12th Street YMCA (now the Thurgood Marshall Center) which is still on display for people to see.

All in all, it was a special evening to celebrate in the venue that commemorates the humble beginnings of a never-ending influence on American literature and culture, the poet for the people; Langston Hughes.


 “Dreams Deferred and Lived.” By Dwight Garner. The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2018,







Shirley Graham Du Bois, Rosenwald Fellowship Recipient, Profiled in Yale Magazine

Julius Rosenwald’s legacy includes the creation of the Rosenwald Fund Fellowship, which supported African-American intellectuals in the pursuit of advanced scholarship. Among the esteemed class of recipients was W.E.B. Du Bois, best known for his work as a civil rights activist; however, he was not the only one in his family to have received the honor. W.E.B. Du Bois’ wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, also shared this distinction. Graham Du Bois was recently profiled in Yale Alumni Magazine.

Shirley Graham Du Bois was an intellectual and creative force of nature in her own right in the 1930s up until her death in the 1970s. Her exceptional talents as a composer and musician led her to opportunities to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Oberlin College, where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music composition.

Shirley Graham Du Bois
(Image from Yale Alumni Magazine and the Library of Congress)

In 1938, Graham Du Bois became the recipient of a Rosenwald Fund Fellowship, supporting her doctoral studies at Yale in playwriting. Graham Du Bois’ literary and musical works reflected on African American history and the African American experience, commenting on racial prejudice and bigotry in America. Her bend towards civil rights activism continued when she joined the NAACP, during which time she also wrote and published a collection of biographies on African Americans. Her book on Frederick Douglass earned her a Julian Messner award in 1946.

Graham Du Bois continued her civil rights work up until her death in 1977. The connection between her legacy and that of Julius Rosenwald demonstrates the important impact of the Rosenwald Fellowship in the support of African American artists and activists in the 20th century.

Read the article in Yale Alumni Magazine here

Eugene Lang (1919 – 2017)

The Ciesla Foundation shares the news of the passing of philanthropist and entrepreneur Eugene M. Lang on April 8, 2017. Like Julius Rosenwald, Lang’s prolific philanthropy made a tremendous impact on education through schools and scholarships–a legacy that endures today. He was a modern day Rosenwald.

Eugene Lang
(Image from The Washington Post)

“Commentators often described Lang as the ‘most creative philanthropist in America.’ The combination of entrepreneurial instincts and creative imagination that fueled his diverse business ventures around the world characterized his philanthropic ventures as well. He initiated education, health and arts enterprises that are recognized for their ingenuity and transformational accomplishments.”

Read Lang’s obituary in The Washington Post here

Rosenwald Legacy Conference is April 7 at UNCW

The UNCW Rosenwald School Legacy Conference coming up on Friday April 7, at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education. The conference grew out of the documentary work on historic African-American schools, by Claudia Stack.

Stack organized the inaugural conference in 2009, to raise awareness about the sacrifice African-American families made to build schools in North Carolina. The first conference was sponsored by Historic Wilmington Foundation and several departments at UNCW, which include, The Department of History, the Upperman African American Cultural Center, Randall Library, and the Watson College of Education.

Brunswick County Training School in Southport, a six-teacher Rosenwald School completed in 1924. Picture used with permission of Fisk Rosenwald School. [COURTESY OF CLAUDIA STACK]

The theme of this year’s conference is “African-Americans and Education: Past, Present and Future.” Topics include education history, innovative programs in K-12 schools, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These wide-ranging topics recognize that education is central to African-American history and hopes. “Getting to know my neighbors whose families sacrificed to build schools inspired me, which is why I continue to be involved,” said Claudia Stack on her continuing work.

Find Claudia Stack’s article here
and her website here

Rosenwald, Hughes and Election Day

You may not have thought that in watching the 2016 US Election coverage you could glimpse Julius Rosenwald’s influence, but time and time again his campaign of equality and education in the the early 20th century shines on through, even in present day. When Tim Kaine quoted Langston Hughes following Hillary Clinton’s defeat to Donald Trump, he not only referenced one of the greatest African American writers of all time but also a two time recipient of Rosenwald Grants for Creative Writing, one in 1931 and one 10 years later in 1941.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
~Langston Hughes, 1951