Ask Your Mamma

Immediately after the Newport Jazz Festival ended prematurely on July 3, 1960, Langston Hughes rented a room at the Hotel Viking to discuss the festival's future with local leaders. 

 

On the next day, July 4, he began the most ambitious poetic project of his life.  Writing on twenty-five sheets of different colored paper, Hughes began an 800-line poem that would eventually be included in his last (and most complex) original book of poetry. 

 

Ask Your Mamma appeared in 1961 with full musical directives in the margin (and a reference to the little-known Nina Simone in "Horn of Plenty.") Because Hughes always envisioned it read to music, his first reading events included Margaret Bonds accompanying him on piano.

 

Led by Dr. Ron McCurdy, The Langston Hughes Project performs the entire book of poetry accompanied by music and local readers. In the spirit of Hughes's original vision, they recorded the below in 2014 and continue to tour.