This essay examines Langston Hughes's vision and cultural politics via his fictional character Jesse B. Semple. Known as the Simple stories, Hughes's sketches were collected in five volumes published during his lifetime, including Simple Speaks His Mind (1950), Simple Takes a Wife (1953), Simple Stakes a Claim (1957), The Best of Simple (1961), and Simple's Uncle Sam (1965). A sixth volume, titled The Return of Simple, was published in 1994. The author examines the stories in relation to his 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” and argues that Simple's musings were largely representative of black working-class ethos in the twentieth century. At the same time, the author situates Hughes's stories in the broader context of African diasporic literary and cultural history.

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