On February 1, 1902, one of the most intriguing poets to take part in the Harlem Renaissance was born in Joplin, Missouri to Carrie Mercer Langston and to James Nathaniel Hughes. Hughes parents separated shortly after his birth. After moving to Lawrence, Kansas, Hughes was raised by his grandmother. Although at this time he hadn’t yet written a poem, Hughes was named class poet during his elementary school years. Until the age of 13, Hughes continured to attend school between both Kansas and Illinois.
Hughes grandmother passed during his school years. After he death, Hughes moved in with his mother, who had forbid him to stay with her for unknown reasons before. Starting a new life in Cleveland, Ohio, Hughes attended a mostl white high school. Due to his fine skin complexion and ‘silky’ hair, Hughes was referred to as ‘Indian-looking’. After sparking an interest in writing, due to the introduction of Carl Sandburg, Hughes graduated high school in 1920.
While visiting his father after graduation, Hughes had the urge to write a new piece of art. On his journey, he wrote the famous poem called “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” In that writing, Hughes was able to show his art of African American music, such as jazz and blues. After his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” Langston Hughes wrote another poem by the name of “The Weary Blues”. In 1925, this poem in particular won a section in the Opportunity Magazine Literary Contest. In 1926, another poem by the same name had appeared, and helped launch Hughes career.
During that time in which Hughes was heavily involved in new writing, the black community was going through a social problem of its own. Racism, and trying to fit into society was quite hard during that time. Some believed that they wouldn’t ever make it out of poverty, or escape the judgement due to the color of their skin. Other black males, who happened to live in the North, didn’t quite encounter racism as in the south, but yet had a certain problem of their own. Dealing with homosexuality was a problem in the black community. Some looked at being gay as an automatic sin, and an automatic trip to hell. Others felt that if you loved the same sex sexually, that was between you and God. Hughes being a homosexual himself, decided to write a short story based on that subject, called “Blessed Assurance.” To some, the name seemed to be quite ironic, since it was dealing with a Gospel song, and the very touchy subject of homosexuality in the Church community, at the same time.
In the story, Delmar who is a teenager in high school, is believed to be gay by his father, John. John views his son as being a “queer”, and often wonders if Delmar’s queer strain, came from his wifes side. Delmar, who was looked at by his father to be a “sweet boy”, had a father who never understood why his son was no juvenile delinquent. He never stole cars, smoked reefer, or argued before doing the dishes. Delmar also played with his sister in a kind manner, and also played with her dolls as well. The way that Delmar would smoke a cigarette bothered John. John would repeatedly state “If you’re going to smoke, Delmar, hold our cigarette between your first two fingers, not between your thumb and finger – like a woman”. Delmar didn’t find a problem as to how he was. He just figured he was a prim and proper type boy. Faithfully going to Church, Delmar sings so bright and filled with joy. With a voice that can make any woman pass out, Delmar happens to make a male fall out, and John just loses it. His heart seems to break into to, and the only thing that would be able to kill him at that point is if Delmar is in fact gay. John continues through the poem trying to find peace with himself, as well as God, and Delmar’s sexuality.
Many who read this short story would often question whether or not Hughes was gay. Many of the clues in the story can lead some to believe so. Slight differences between Hughes and Delmar can cause one to think that just maybe he was writing this short story to prove a certain point. Being openly gay in the public could have possibly turned out to be the worst for Hughes, therefore, he kept his writings as a way to reach out and speak for himself. During the time of the short story, many black men were looked at in their community as being strong, and having a dlot of courage. For a man to come out and say he was gay, would simply cause him to be looked down upon as a “sissy”. Many black men who were gay, kept it a secret, only so that they wouldn’t be judged.