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The Ways of White Folks

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  4,317 ratings  ·  303 reviews
One of his best-known works, Hughes wrote The Ways of White Folks while living in Carmel, California. In it, he shares acrid and poignant stories of blacks colliding--sometimes humorously, but often tragically--with whites throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

The book consists of fourteen moving stories:

"Cora Unashamed"
"Slave on the Block"
"A Good Job Gone"
Paperback, 255 pages
Published September 12th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1934)
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Dori Brown Yes all humans are, however systemic racism has existed for hundreds of years and White people have always had the power to change this. Those charact…moreYes all humans are, however systemic racism has existed for hundreds of years and White people have always had the power to change this. Those characteristics that you are questioning are more importantly probed in this book in relation to the racism in the world (that still exists today) .(less)

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THEY WERE PEOPLE who went in for Negroes—Michael and Anne—the Carraways. But not in the social-service, philanthropic sort of way, no. They saw no use in helping a race that was already too charming and naive and lovely for words. Leave them unspoiled and just enjoy them, Michael and Anne felt.
The Ways of White Folks ~~ Langston Hughes


It is time Langston Hughes’ reputation be salvaged. Too often, he is thought of as the queer, black poet from Harlem. What Hughes is, is a hugely talented writer,
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book made me ache inside. Hughes is an excellent writer and his stories are like razor blades that draw fine little lines in your heart. You don't even realize you're bleeding until it's done. ...more
Paul Bryant
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Every one of these 14 short stories is filled with a terrible tension – however nice and lovely and polite the white people are, and however smilingly subservient the black people are, you know nothing is going to end well, and it doesn’t, ever. Two of these stories end with ultimate violent strange-fruit horror but most of the others are filled with the poison of the condescending disdainful patronising sweetness of white people to their black servants, the cooks, the maids, the janitors, the m ...more
Hughes lives up to the hype!! I absolutely loved this book.  A relativistic time capsule showcasing what it meant to be black in America in a world of whiteness in the 1930s.  Hughes has compiled a set of stories that echo the sentiments that we see now.  While I would not call this book prescient, I would say that it has tremendous historical value. We see the seeds of behaviors and attitudes in the now, that were the norm back in Hughes time.  A history book which demonstrates that yes, we act ...more
La Tonya  Jordan
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Go On Girls Book Club
Shelves: favorites
This book is a collection of short stories of interactions of every day encounters of black people and white people. From small towns to big cities and overseas, we get a glimpse of how each side thinks of the other. The stories are humorous, sad, truthful, and at times you want to scream. Langston Hughes writing style puts you the reader in the mist of the story. When he writes about Cora, the name sounds simple. But, he magnifies the persona.

The tale of the lonely white woman in the company of
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
After reading this brilliant African-American fiction composed of numerous short stories, I was compelled to reflect on a piece of American history that was not honorable, in regards to the morale of a society. I appreciated the blunt honesty that Langston portrayed within his work in the series of short stories. He presented stories that contained content that has been echoed within Black families for decades. I am grateful for the major progress in this country and hope that we continue to mak ...more
Oct 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is a definite must-read. I picked it up because I thought it had a funny name, and the leaps and bounds it took beyond my expectations have made me wonder how it has not won awards and how we are not all expected to read this book in school.

I admit that my common conclusion upon reading a famous author's short stories is: "genius." F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut - in many ways their short stories impressed me more than their full-length novels. I don't think I've ever read other La
Kevin Shepherd
Here are fourteen short stories that throw light on that ominous intersection of Black and White. Langston Hughes wrote with amazing clarity and purpose. His absorbing fiction reveals the abhorrent realities of the Jim Crow South and reanimates a shameful era of history that none of us should ever, ever forget.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"No," said Oceola simply. "This is mine. . . . Listen! . . . How sad and gay it is. Blue and happy -- laughing and crying. . . . How white like you and black like me. . . . How much like a man. . . . And how much like a woman. . . . Warm as Pete's mouth. . . . These are the blues. . . . I'm playing."

I love that line. What a beautifully written, powerful and sad book. I think I shall remember it for a long time.

I'll write a full review this weekend.
J. Kenyarta
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this golden nugget in my neighbors attic library and HAD to ask if I could borrow it! Upon seeing the excitement in my eyes, she smiled and said to use it as long at I'd like. I started this evening saying I'd only read a bit, and now I'm nearly half done! ...more
Elyse  Walters
Thank you to my friend, Monica ....
Between her exceptional review... and the 528 -five star reviews on Amazon ...
I knew I would be missing something special if I didn’t read this book.

Langston Hughes was the real deal!!! His stories were gripping, page turning engrossing....
portraying vivid understanding of the human condition-painful realities for African Americans in the 1930’s, before the civil rights movement.

The first story knocked-it-out-of-the-park’...with its emotionally felt story....
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I do not recommend finishing this book while sitting on the bus at the end of a work day, particularly while the cutest little black boy sits laughing on his father's lap in a seat across from you.

This book took me longer than I expected to finish. Often, after a story, I would have to put it down and leave it for a few days. It just isn't possible to move into the next tragic tale, like the nightly news. Happy endings were few. Thank you for this book, Langston Hughes, and fuck you all who mad
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book just ripped me open and remade me. Hughes is a genius, sees straight through to the souls of us all. It’s a gripping, incredibly insightful book that manages to be applicable decades and decades later.
Langston Hughes' The Ways of White Folks is – or should be – a disquieting book for those of us who are White. Hughes presents a series of caricatures of White in a series of short stories. His white folk sometimes do good things and are sometimes well-intentioned toward Blacks, but more often they objectify, condescend, and pity. They shift blame for problems, often problems of their own making, onto Blacks. White families would prefer their daughters have an ultimately fatal abortion than that ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Why did I wait so long to read Langston Hughes? These short stories speak to us today - carefully observed, beautifully written. An education.
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Contains some of the best stories I have ever read. Beautiful writing and, of course, still sadly all too relevant
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's hard not to love every bit of Langston Hughes's contribution to American letters. Although best know as a poet, I greatly admire his prose too. Two other prose works of his to check out are two of my favorite works of American memoir: "The Big Sea" and "I Wonder as I Wander." ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
This collection of stories explores themes of race and race relations in the early twentieth century. The issues addressed in the collection will ring familiar to people schooled in the racial history of the United States prior to the Civil Rights Era. Consequently, the character types, plots, and outcomes are fairly predictable. Nonetheless, many of the stories are powerful. Undoubtedly, they were even more so when originally published in the 1920s and 1930s. The themes addressed in the stories ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent stories with heart that really resonated how life used to be for black folks - and still is.
robin friedman
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stories of Difficult Black And White Relations

In 1934, the African American poet Langston Hughes (1902 -- 1967) published his first collection of short stories, "The Ways of White Folks", all of which have as a theme the strong force of racial prejudice. The stories show how even the behavior toward black Americans of well-meaning, liberal white Americans in the 1930s had a racist and patronizing tone. The stories are told with a mixture of irony,humor, and sarcasm. They are written with a brisk
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-america
When I think of the power of the short story to grab you and shake up the core of who you are, there are three that immediately come to mind. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Raymond Carver’s “Popular Mechanics”, and Stig Dagerman’s “To Kill a Child”. After reading Langston Hughes collection “The Ways of White Folk” and the story “Home” however, I now have a fourth.
In truth, all of these stories about interactions between whites and blacks are incredible in their own right. Sometimes these in
What can you say about Langston Hughes? He isn’t a perfect writer as there is no such thing. A man born after the turn of the 20th century, but knew of the plight of the Negroes (his words not mine). These stories are the culmination of the interaction between whites and Negroes, in the city, on the farm, in richness and poverty. It didn’t matter if the characters were white, black, or mixed – whether they lived together or were strangers, Hughes had a profound gift of cultural syntax. The down ...more
Sean Blevins
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lots of really good stories here.

"Little Dog" is one of the most perfect short stories I've ever read.

"Home" and "Father and Son" read like a precursor to Richard Wright's short story collection,Uncle Tom's Children. Both will probably stick with you. Like a splinter.

"Rejuvenation Through Joy" connects to conversations about both white uses of black culture and the perennial dangers of wealthy white ennui. While expressed in the trends of its time, the themes and basic action of this story are
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
(FROM JACKET)Perhaps more than any other writer, Langston Hughes made the white America of the 1920s and '30s aware of the black culture thriving in its midst. Like his most famous poems, Hughes's stories are messages from that other America, sharply etched vignettes of its daily life, cruelly accurate portrayals of black people colliding-sometimes humorously, more often tragically-with whites.
Here is the ailing black musician who comes home from Europe to die in his small town-only to die more
Brian Friesen
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After finishing Langston Hughes' collection of stories, "The Ways of White Folks," I'm now convinced that Hughes is one of the most under-recognized fiction-talents of the 20th century. Whatever the establishment hangups are for digging deeper into Hughes' fiction writing, it is time to recognize the timeless poignancy of Langston's non-poetry work.

His striking, nuanced depictions of racial tensions in communities all around the United States approach the dexterity and efficiency of Flannery O'
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading in schools and it is something poignant for this short month to remember Black History. Langston Hughes shows us very clearly that Black History is American History. Hughes' short stories in this phenomenal work, although written fairly long ago, still--sadly--apply to current issues of varying degrees of racism. Hughes gives the reader many various race-related situations and tells how all the characters (black or white) deal with the situations presented. Many p ...more
Jenny Schmenny
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written short stories that serve a slice of historical perspective to which I don't usually have access. Hughes' language is rich and detailed.

Hughes' depiction of white people is...unfavorable, ranging from condescending rich liberals fixated on the "primitive" expressions of those exotic dark people - to overt discrimination and brutality. Unsurprising, considering the racial climate of America in the 30's...and today. His depiction of black people is appreciative and broad, if a b
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This short story collection runs deep and Hughes' lyrical, powerful writing style shines often. All the stories are tragic or dark in some way because this collection revolves around the discrepancies, prejudices, inequalities, and culture conflicts between white and black communities or individuals in the earlier twentieth century. I found "Cora Unashamed" and "Mother and Child" to be so well-crafted that I could hear the narrator's or characters' voices in my head. ...more
Julian Tooke
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As great short stories should do, these ones draw you in very quickly. The common thread to the stories is white racism. The stories often combine wit and wry insight with sometimes shocking brutality. They’re fine beautifully written stories which serve as social record records which still resonate profoundly now.
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve wanted to read something by Langston Hughes for a long time, and this was a great place to start. Each of these powerful short stories packs a punch.
All involve the fraught interactions of Black people with white folks, always strained and with some degree of tension, eventually leading to conflict— from the painfully uncomfortable to the tragic and catastrophic.
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Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "Harlem was in vogue." ...more

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“Bow down and pray in fear and trembling, go way back in the dark afraid; or work harder and harder; or stumble and learn; or raise up your fist and strike-but once the idea comes into your head you’ll never be the same again. Oh, test tube of life! Crucible of the South, find the right powder and you’ll never be the same again-the cotton will blaze and the cabins will burn and the chains will be broken and men, all of a sudden, will shakes hands, black men and white men, like steel meeting steel!” 8 likes
“THEY WERE PEOPLE who went in for Negroes—Michael and Anne—the Carraways. But not in the social-service, philanthropic sort of way, no. They saw no use in helping a race that was already too charming and naive and lovely for words. Leave them unspoiled and just enjoy them, Michael and Anne felt. So they went in for the Art of Negroes—the dancing that had such jungle life about it, the songs that were so simple and fervent, the poetry that was so direct, so real. They never tried to influence that art, they only bought it and raved over it, and copied it. For they were artists, too.” 5 likes
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