Following the propositions Elizabeth Alexander's keynote address, this essay begins by asking, How might a religious genealogy of Langston Hughes (and African American literature, in general) invite us to think differently about the future(s) of black studies? In response to this question, this essay traces a religious genealogy of Hughes's writing by moving backward across the span of his life from the 1960s, the decade in which he died, back to the 1920s, the decade in which we first achieved a degree of literary celebrity in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. As a provisional response to the question of a religious genealogy of African American literature, this rendering of Hughes's long literary career seeks to accomplish three tasks. First, this novel genealogy of Langston Hughes highlights a range of sources that, in turn, reveal a religious history in African American letters that has only just begun to receive scholarly attention. Second, in shedding new light on these ostensibly familiar sources, this essay suggests that such histories present scholars of African American literature, culture, and religion with a fecund set of possibilities for future work. Third, by bringing this genealogy to the fore, this essay also hopes to call attention to how a set of religious ideas often circulate (and are left unquestioned) in and around our conceptions of black studies.

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