Langston Hughes’ Homemade Christmas Cards From 1950

Who doesn’t trea­sure a hand­made present?

As the years go by, we may begin to offload the ill-fit­ting sweaters, the nev­er lit sand cast can­dles, and the Sty­ro­foam ball snow­men. But a present made of words takes up very lit­tle space, and it has the Ghost of Christ­mas Past’s pow­er to instant­ly evoke the sender as they once were.

Sev­en­ty years ago, poet Langston Hugh­es, too skint to go Christ­mas shop­ping, sent every­one on his gift list sim­ple, home­made hol­i­day post­cards. Typed on white card­stock, each signed card was embell­ished with red and green pen­cils and mailed for the price of a 3¢ stamp.

As biog­ra­ph­er Arnold Ram­per­sad notes:

The last weeks of 1950 found him nev­er­the­less in a melan­choly mood, his spir­its sink­ing low­er again as he again became a tar­get of red-bait­ing.

The year start­ed aus­pi­cious­ly with The New York Times prais­ing his libret­to for The Bar­ri­er, an opera based on his play, Mulat­to: A Tragedy of the Deep South. But the opera was a com­mer­cial flop, and pos­i­tive reviews for his book Sim­ple Speaks His Mind failed to trans­late into the hoped-for sales.

Although he had recent­ly pur­chased an East Harlem brown­stone with an old­er cou­ple who dot­ed on him as they would a son, pro­vid­ing him with a sun­ny, top floor work­space, 1950 was far from his favorite year.

His type­writ­ten hol­i­day cou­plets took things out on a jaun­ty note, while pay­ing light lip ser­vice to his plight.

Maybe we can aspire to the same…

Hugh­es’ hand­made hol­i­day cards reside in the Langston Hugh­es Papers in Yale’s Bei­necke Rare Book and Man­u­script Library, along with hol­i­day cards spe­cif­ic to the African-Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence received from friends and asso­ciates.

via the Bei­necke Rare Book and Man­u­script Library at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Langston Hugh­es Reads Langston Hugh­es

A Sim­ple, Down-to-Earth Christ­mas Card from the Great Depres­sion (1933)

Hear Neil Gaiman Read A Christ­mas Car­ol Just as Dick­ens Read It

How Joni Mitchell’s Song of Heart­break, “Riv­er,” Became a Christ­mas Clas­sic

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her lat­est alter ego, L’Ourse, wish­es you a very mer­ry Xmas and peace and health in the New Year  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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