68. The Unexpected and Fun History of “Simple” with Dr. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper

In this episode, we were honored to talk with educator, teacher and writer extraordinaire, Dr. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper. She taught at  Spelman for 32 years and was the Fuller E. Calloway Professor of English. She is also a world renowned expert on Langston Hughes and his Simple stories. 

We talked about her longtime love and scholarship of Langston Hughes, the story of how Simple came to be, and the legacy of the stories today. Dr. Harper shares so many awesome stories and we shared many laughs! It was so great to talk about Simple for the third time and y’all better start reading these stories after this one! 

1:12 When Dr. Harper was first introduced to Langston Hughes

4:08 Dr. Harper’s relationship with her professor 

7:02 Her undergraduate thesis on Langston Hughes 

10:19 How her classes on Langston Hughes changed over time

19:32 How Langston Hughes wrote about women 

22:52 “The Need for Heroes” 

26:12 The Origin Story for the character of Simple

30:01 Black literacy and the Black press in Langston Hughes’ time 

35:41 People thought Simple was a real person!

38:35 Dr. Harper’s 3 favorite Simple Stories 

43:46 What makes Simple so relevant? 

48:27 Why do many people still not know Simple? 

49:23 The Danny Glover Story 

55:23 Looking for Langston and Langston Hughes’ sexuality 

1:02 The Boondocks comparison to Simple 

1:04 The Importance of Laughter 

1:06 Further reading for Langston Hughes 

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