National Endowment for the Humanities awards $50,000 grant to Arts Center’s Hughes documentary project

photo by: AP File Photo

This March 26, 1953 file photo shows poet and author Langston Hughes speaking before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in Washington, D.C.

The Lawrence Arts Center has received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support preliminary planning, research and documentation for the production of a two-part documentary film on the life of Langston Hughes.

Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance poet, whose prolific body of work includes poetry, plays, nonfiction, children’s literature and short stories, spent his childhood in Lawrence.

In collaboration with the Lawrence Arts Center, the Dream Documentary Collective — a roster of mostly Kansas University professors spanning several departments — proposes “to explore the multiplicity of ways in which Hughes constructed his identity, participated in the international arts scene, and engaged with the American dream,” according to the Arts Center.

The Dream Documentary Collective consists of: Randal Jelks, professor of American studies and African and African-American studies at KU; Madison Davis Lacy, filmmaker and associate professor of film and media studies at KU; John Edgar Tidwell, professor of English at KU; Darren Canady, assistant professor of playwriting in KU’s English department; Carmaletta Williams, professor emeritus of English and African-American studies at Johnson County Community College; Tess Banion, film producer and fundraiser; Elena Lacy, researcher; and Sarah Bishop, director of grants and special projects at the Lawrence Arts Center.

The NEH grant will allow the collective to bring nine leading Hughes scholars to Lawrence during June’s Free State Festival. As part of the festival’s programming, the Hughes experts will “gather to discuss the preliminary treatment for the film, to develop an outline for the full screenplay of the film, and to conduct a series of public panel discussions” about the writer’s life, according to the Arts Center.

PBS’s award-winning “American Masters” has already expressed interest in broadcasting the completed film, the Arts Center said.