Langston Hughes is widely remembered as a celebrated star of the Harlem Renaissance — a writer whose bluesy, lyrical poems and novels still have broad appeal. What’s less well known about Hughes is that for much of his life he maintained a friendship with Carl Van Vechten, a flamboyant white critic, writer, and photographer whose ardent support of black artists was peerless.
Despite their differences — Van Vechten was forty-four to Hughes twenty-two when they met–Hughes’ and Van Vechten’s shared interest in black culture lead to a deeply-felt, if unconventional friendship that would span some forty years. Between them they knew everyone — from Zora Neale Hurston to Richard Wright, and their letters, lovingly and expertly collected here for the first time, are filled with gossip about the antics of the great and the forgotten, as well as with talk that ranged from race relations to blues lyrics to the nightspots of Harlem, which they both loved to prowl. It’s a correspondence that, as Emily Bernard notes in her introduction, provides “an unusual record of entertainment, politics, and culture as seen through the eyes of two fascinating and irreverent men.
“‘Remember Me to Harlem’ serves up a textured, ironic, ribald and frequently poignant interracial friendship between two remarkable talents whose intellectual relationship was vital to the success of Hughes, who was to become one of the 20th century’s most gifted poets and interpreters of the black experience.” — David Lewis
”…Emily Bernard, who has done an expert job of organizing the letters into a clear, well-annotated, highly readable volume, hauntingly illustrated by the photographs Van Vechten took of artists from Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to James Baldwin.” — Janet Maslin
“Bernard’s painstakingly assembled edition provides comprehensive background notes and a complete guide to the procession of famous and obscure personages appearing in the letters, as well as a graceful introduction briefly sketching the correspondents’ lives and the arc of the Harlem Renaissance.”
“Gathered into this volume is “a mere fraction” of the letters the two men exchanged, but from the selection readers certainly get more than just a glimpse at Hughes’ and Van Vechten’s mutually beneficial place in each other’s life.” — Brad Hooper
“Helpfully, everyone is identified in Bernard’s copious footnotes, which make this a handy reference work, as well as a delightful record of an extraordinary relationship between two uniquely gifted figures in American letters.” — Wendy Smith