Challenging Structural Inequalities: Langston Hughes and His Contemporaries [ALA 2024]

deadline for submissions: 
January 28, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Langston Hughes Society

Challenging Structural Inequalities: Langston Hughes and His Contemporaries

--The Langston Hughes Society at the 35th ALA Convention--


May 23-26, 2024
The Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL 


The Langston Hughes Society invites proposals to participate in our session at the 35th Annual American Literature Association Conference, May 23-26 in Chicago, IL.


As a writer who championed political, economic, and cultural equality, Langston Hughes often found himself at odds with the United States government, particularly in the form of the FBI and congressional committees. He was not alone in that distinction, as many of his contemporaries whose careers spanned the “Red Decade” of the 1930s through the Civil Rights Movement and cultural upheaval of the 1960s also found themselves on FBI watchlists and called before either HUAC or McCarthy’s senate committee. Despite this pressure, many artists persisted in calling attention to and challenging injustices from housing discrimination to U.S. interventions abroad. During his senate hearing, Hughes himself would remind his interrogators that he was being asked for complete loyalty to a system that did not seem to offer much loyalty to him. He pointedly wondered “how I can adjust to this whole problem of helping to build America when sometimes I cannot even get into a school or a lecture or a concert or in the South go to the library and get a book out.” Hughes’s creation of Jesse B. Semple was one such literary engagement with such contradictions. 

This panel seeks paper proposals that shed light on Hughes or his contemporaries’ artistic challenges to U.S. inequalities as they were encoded in official government policies, practices, and structures. For example, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun reflects not only widespread economic inequalities but also the approved or inscribed practices, including racial covenants, that perpetuated housing discrimination, and Lloyd Brown’s Iron City is an early exposure of the criminal justice system’s entrenched racial discrimination that would develop into what Michelle Alexander calls the “New Jim Crow.”  

The deadline for abstract submissions for this panel is Sunday, January 28, 2024. Please send, as an e-mail attachment(s), your 300 word abstract and short biographical statement to Richard Hancuff ( Indicate, if applicable, any audio-visual needs. Note also that in addition to the registration fees required for ALA, presenters on this session must also be current members of the Langston Hughes Society by the time of the conference in order to present.

For more information on the Langston Hughes Society and our mission, or to join the society, please visit us online at