surgical management of prostate cancer has come along way since Langston Hughes

a lotta shakin going on
Langston Hughes
Photo by Consuelo Kanaga

Langston Hughes
James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Lincoln, Illinois, that Hughes began writing poetry. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University. During these years, he held odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes’s first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in “Montage of a Dream Deferred.” His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.

Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in May 22, 1967, in New York. In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York City, has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”

In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, Simple Stakes a Claim,Simple Takes a Wife, and Simple’s Uncle Sam. He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography (The Big Sea) and co-wrote the play Mule Bone with Zora Neale Hurston.

A Selected Bibliography


Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (1961)
Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1994)
Dear Lovely Death (1931)
Fields of Wonder (1947)
Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927)
Freedom’s Plow (1943)
Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)
One-Way Ticket (1949)
Scottsboro Limited (1932)
Selected Poems (1959)
Shakespeare in Harlem (1942)
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932)
The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times (1967)
The Weary Blues (1926)


Good Morning, Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes (1973)
I Wonder as I Wander (1956)
Laughing to Keep From Crying (1952)
Not Without Laughter (1930)
Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964 (2001)
Simple Speaks His Mind (1950)
Simple Stakes a Claim (1957)
Simple Takes a Wife (1953)
Simple’s Uncle Sam (1965)
Something in Common and Other Stories (1963)
Tambourines to Glory (1958)
The Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters (1980)
The Big Sea (1940)
The Langston Hughes Reader (1958)
The Ways of White Folks (1934)


Black Nativity (1961)
Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vol. 5: The Plays to 1942: Mulatto to The Sun Do Move (2000)
Don’t You Want to Be Free? (1938)
Five Plays by Langston Hughes (1963)
Little Ham (1935)
Mulatto (1935)
Mule Bone (1930)
Simply Heavenly (1957)
Soul Gone Home (1937)
The Political Plays of Langston Hughes (2000)

Poetry in Translation

Cuba Libre (1948)
Gypsy Ballads (1951)
Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral (1957)


Masters of the Dew (1947)

When  I was urology resident the only case that we did that was more feared than a radical cystectomy,”God did not mean for the bladder to be removed,” was a radical prostatectomy. They were hard to do, had a lot of bleeding, usually 1000-2000 cc’s, and almost always had some degree of incontinence and sexual dysfunction after math. This would have been about 20 years after Langston Hughes died of ” abdominal complications of prostate surgery.” I did see somewhere that he was in the hospital about two weeks and then succumbed to an infection. I can’t find if he had a prostatectomy or not or if the surgery was for urinary obstruction (a channel TURP not prostate removal) or if it was for something like ureteral obstruction. With the advent of the Walsh prostatectomy a urologist, like me, in a small community could perform this procedure with results unknown to Hughes’ time. Usually done in less than two hours, minimal blood loss (usually less than 500 cc’s) and a good chance of preserving sexual function and almost always preserving continence. (Mild stress incontinence can be common). Robert Frost had a prostatectomy and died a year later. This interests me. I plan to do a little research and see if I can find some of the particulars of the medical histories. That surveillance has become more and more a treatment option and not a mere ” doing nothing approach” in a way brings the treatment of prostate cancer full circle. In patients like Hughes, Frost, Bixby etc…. these were cases of late diagnosis, in other words they did not have option of surveillance. I feel folks are getting this all mixed up. You have to have the diagnosis first and the specifics of the biopsy to then make surveillance choices. See previous post on Squarl and you’ll see how some are a bit misguided. To prevent a Hughes type patient you need a reasonable awareness program, then and only then, with the diagnosis in hand with the particulars of the disease, does the discussion and decision-making process begin.

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