Langston Hughes’s Montage of a Dream Deferred observes Harlem’s griefs and difficulties, but unlike contemporary work about the neighborhood by other authors, his poetry resists the suburban impulse that swept the United States after World War II. “No Room for Fear” reads the Montage as a response to a postwar anti-urbanism that portrayed high-density cities as sites of physical and moral contagion, and exalted suburban living as a literal form of “social distance” that separated individuals by race and nuclear family of origin in the supposed interests of health and wellbeing. The article argues that Montage celebrates Harlem’s diversity as a good made possible only by the crowded conditions writers of social protest fiction deplored. It concludes by considering how Hughes’s defense of urbanism remains relevant seventy years later, when a new version of the suburban impulse trumpets the internet instead of the automobile as an instrument to “free” New Yorkers from dangerous proximity to people different from themselves.

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