Friday, August 14, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt twelve)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

The Florence Mills funeral was on a Sunday afternoon, and it was a beautiful procession, with the chorus girls from her show marching all in gray, and an airplane releasing flocks of blackbirds overhead.

The Countee Cullen wedding was another spectacle that had Harlem talking for a long time—the wedding of the leading lyric poet of the Negro Renaissance to Yolande DuBois, the daughter, and only child, of the leading old-guard Negro writer, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois. It was the social-literary event of the season, and very society. I was an usher—by virtue of being a poet. It was an Easter-time wedding, held at dusk in the church pastored by Countee Cullen’s father, one of the largest Negro churches in the world, but it didn’t begin to hold the crowd. The first floor was given over to holders of engraved invitations, and the balcony to the general public, and both were packed to capacity.

The bride had been teaching in Baltimore, and her bridesmaids all came from Maryland in a special car, looking very charning and pretty. We held a rehearsal of the wedding on Good Friday and it was my job to escort the bride’s mother to her seat. Unfortunately, I didn’t own a pair of tails, so I had to rent a set. In the rental shop the suit looked black, but once outside, it looked rusty green. It was one of those cheap, dull blacks that had faded with time, and the trousers were stove-piped. I felt very self-conscious in a green, rented pawnshop dress suit, so I said to myself: “I will never go into society again if I have to rent my clothes.” But, nevertheless, I enjoyed being in the wedding.

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