Despite being one of America’s most legendary voices, the works of Langston Hughes, who was born on Feb. 1, 1902, have been rarely adapted for the big and small screens.
One of those few adaptations is the 2013 film Black Nativity, which was directed by Kasi Lemmons and starred Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson.
To celebrate Hughes’ birthday and the start of Black History Month, we’ve picked five of Hughes’ works, including plays, novels and short stories, that are ready for adaptation:
Not Without Laughter
Hughes’ first novel focused on the lives of Black residents in early 1900s Kansas and integrated themes of class and religion. Hughes is noted as describing the book as semi-autobiographical and being based on his early life in Lawrence, Kansas.
One Christmas Eve
The holiday-themed short story is a part of his collection of short stories The Ways of White Folks. The story, which is about discrimination faced by a little Black boy at a toy store, could be adapted and adjusted for modern times to be a socially relevant project.
This Hughes short story, which is also a part of the collection The Ways of White Folks, is one of the few Hughes’ works that have already been adapted for the screen. A 2000 TV film directed by Deborah Pratt starred Regina Taylor and Cherry Jones. However, it’s ripe for a theatrical adaptation, centering on the Black woman in a Midwestern town who lashes out against her employers.
Fight for Freedom: The Story of the NAACP
As one of Hughes’ non-fiction works that could be turned into a documentary, a big screen adaptation could document the formation and significant landmark moments in the early years of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Though there are multiple films in the works on the theme of racial passing, Hughes’ short story, which was included in The Ways of White Folks, could set itself apart. A lot of these projects have been subject to scrutiny because many believe the actors attached are not white-passing. However, this could be a film starring Troian Bellisario, a white-passing actress and daughter of Deborah Pratt, who directed the first adaptation of Cora Unashamed.
Are there any Hughes works that you’d like to see be brought to the screen? Let us know in the comments below!