Before Langston died—long before he died—he prepared the order of his funeral service: no minister, no prayers, not even an MC. The folks invited got there, and a jazz band, Randy Weston’s trio, played. And all Hughes asked, the only thing that he requested, was that the last tune be Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me.”

In June of 1960 the NAACP gave Langston Hughes its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. Hughes was moved, but he gave credit where he believed credit was due. It would have been, he said, “of the utmost conceit” for him to accept the medal in his name alone. “I can accept it only,” he insisted, “in the name of the Negro people who have given me the materials out of which my poems and stories, plays and songs have come, and who, over the years, have given me as well their love and understanding and support. Without them on my part there would have been no poems, without their hopes and fears and dreams, no stories. Without their struggles, no dramas; without their music, no songs. Had I not heard as a child in the little churches of Kansas and Missouri ‘Deep river, my home is over Jordan’ or ‘My Lord what a mornin’ / When the stars begin to fall,’ I might not have come to realize the lyric beauty of living poetry.”