In Hughes's literary world, history is not a forward line into a utopian future. Neither is it a perfect circle, turning precisely back upon the exact same point in space and time where it has already been. Rather, it is a spiral at once backward and forward, open to new guidance. Despite the past's often being torturous (twisted horribly), it can certainly be channeled well. Hence, to Langston Hughes, black writers facilitate an advance into future time. It is possible to appreciate the temporal trajectory and impact of his writing. First, this article tests in The Big Sea, Hughes's first autobiography, the African American collegian's worthiness in 1929 to redirect the stream of history. Then it details the heroic properties of a tragic mulatto, who despite great revolutionary promise in Ways of White Folks (1934), dies before he can complete his public mission to redirect the stream. Finally, it closes with the celebration of Hughes in Ask Your Mama (1961) of two black women abolitionists with whom the poet endows historic, even sacred voice.

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