Faith Berry: On "Goodbye Christ"

. . . a poem The Saturday Evening Post reprinted on December 21, without his permission:"Goodbye Christ.

Already that November 15,during a Book and Author Luncheon at the Vista Del Arroyo Hotel in Pasadena, he had been met by a picketing delegation. Sent from the temple of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, the picketers distributed copies of the poem while a sound truck played "God Bless America." They then marched into the luncheon, waving a poster of "Goodbye Christ," to denounce Hughes and the presiding host, George Palmer Putnam, in front of over five hundred guests. The stunt was arranged by Aimee's publicity man, who was quickly arrested. Meanwhile, to avoid further embarrassment to the hotel management and luncheon officials, Hughes politely withdrew from the program. Outside the hotel, where a few well-wishers tried to shake his hand as he entered a waiting car, one of Aimee's Four Square Gospel supporters shouted, "Down where I come from, we don't shake hands with niggers." Blaring in the background, the sound truck continued with "God Bless America."

It was not the first time he had been hounded for "Goodbye Christ." Seven years before, a black clergyman attacked him in The Pittsburgh Courier while he was in Russia. A vigorous response had followed from Hughes's fellow poet and Lincoln alumnus, Melvin B. Tolson, who defended Hughes and the poem as a challenge to the contradictions of Christianity. After the poem was reprinted in 1938 in Benjamin Mays's anthology, The Negro's God, various detractors had surfaced here and there, but Hughes had tried to ignore them. Then The Saturday Evening Post got into the act. That 1940, he spent part of his Christmas holiday at Hollow Hills Farm writing a "press statement" to the editors. Signed and dated New Year's Day 1941, copies went to Alfred A. Knopf's lawyers, as well as to his own lawyer, Arthur Spingarn, and to his agent, Maxim Lieber. His statement explained, as truthfully and tersely as it could, his entry into American radicalism during the 1930s, his long trip through the South, his journey to Russia, where he wrote the poem which "contrasted. . . those, who, on the religious side in America ... had said to Christ and the Christian principles, Goodbye.... " Having attackedThe Saturday Evening Post in the poem, he did not retreat in his statement from attacking it as a "magazine whose columns, like the doors of many of our churches, has been until recently entirely closed to Negroes."

From Berry, Faith. Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem. Lawrence Hill & Company, 1983. Copyright © 1983 by Faith Berry.

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Criticism Overview
Title Faith Berry: On "Goodbye Christ" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Faith Berry Criticism Target Langston Hughes
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 28 Sep 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem
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