Though long suspected by some, the link between Langston Hughes’s poetry and Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches is conclusively revealed for the first time in Origins of the Dream: Hughes’s Poetry and King’s Rhetoric, by Langston Hughes expert W. Jason Miller. We are excited to announce the publication of this book today.

Are you in the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill area? Meet author W. Jason Miller at his book launch for Origins of the Dream: Thursday, February 19, 7:00 p.m., at Quail Ridge Books & Music (3522 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina). The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the event, contact Quail Ridge Books & Music: 800-672-6789.

Origins of the Dream traces the personal correspondence between these two twentieth century African American icons. It shows “the cultural ingredients, the political values, and the artistic sensibilities that united Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King Jr. in spirit, thought, and outlook,” says Lewis V. Baldwin of Vanderbilt University. Miller compares Hughes’s poems to King’s speeches and sermons, showing astonishing similarities. He argues that Hughes influenced much more than just King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but that Hughes’s poetry is undeniably present in King’s voice and ideas.

King at Cobo Hall
Martin Luther King, Cobo Hall, Detroit, June 23, 1963. Photo courtesy of the Detroit News Archives.

Hughes’s poetry was considered subversive and dangerous due to the poet’s reputation as a Communist. To avoid bringing more threats and accusations against himself, King used careful allusions rather than quotations when drawing from Hughes’s work. Origins of the Dream explores the political climate that caused King to intentionally conceal his connections to Hughes’s revolutionary poetry. A testament to the power of poetry and speech in changing history, the book “is an exemplary model for future inquiries about the confluence of thought, poetry, and social action,” says Jerry Ward Jr., coeditor of The Cambridge History of African American Literature.


Read this guest post by the author for details on how Langston Hughes’ poem “Dream Deferred”—along with the play that draws from it, A Raisin in the Sun—inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to start speaking about dreams.

Don’t miss our Black History Month sale! We’re offering big discounts on some of our newest books in African American history and literature, including W. Jason Miller’s Origins of the Dream. Browse the books on our website here and enter code BHM15 at checkout.


Dream Deferred

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