Out of America:
A Black Man Confronts Africa
by Keith B. Richburg
Basic Books, 1997 263 pp $24
In 1923, a then-little-known poet named Langston Hughes embarked for Africa. Just twenty-one years old, Hughes had produced the epochal “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” two years before, in which he traced a continuous river of black history from the Nile and the Congo to the “muddy bosom” of the Mississippi. Now he resolved to trace that river to its source. He signed on to the crew of a tramp steamer and set sail for the Windward Coast, jettisoning all his books (except for a cherished copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass) in a final dockside ceremony....
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