Inscribed by Langston Hughes to Documentary Photographer Marion Palfi
Hughes, Langston. Laughing to Keep from Crying. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1952.
8vo.; 206 pages; quarter-bound black boards with blue cloth spine; stamped in purple on spine; pictorial color dust jacket; spine sunned; minor chips and wear at edges; end flap creases cracked.
First edition. A presentation copy, inscribed by Hughes in year of publication on first free endpaper to Marion Palfi: For Marion — / with continued good wishes ever — / Sincerely — / Langston / New York / March 10, / 1952.
Marion Palfi (1907–1978) was a German-American “social-documentary” photographer, best known for her work chronicling racial discrimination and poverty in the United States. After fleeing the Nazis in Berlin, she moved initially to the Netherlands, then, after marrying an American soldier, to New York in 1940.
Palfi first encountered Langston Hughes while working on a photographic project featuring American minority artists, a meeting which subsequently led to her becoming involved with a number of African-American activist communities and causes. One of her photographs of the Henry Street Settlement on New York’s Lower East Side was featured on the cover of the first issue of Ebony magazine in 1945, and she was the first photographer to arrive in Greenwood, Mississippi at the beginning of the town’s civil rights protests in 1963.
Palfi produced several photography books, among them There Is No More Time: An American Tragedy (1949) and Suffer the Little Children (1952), and was the recipient of fellowships from the Rosenwald Fund (1946), the Guggenheim Foundation (1967),
and the National Endowment for the Arts (1974). Her work has recently been rediscovered, and was featured in a 2021 retrospective at the Phoenix Art Museum, Freedom Must Be Lived: Marion Palfi’s America, 1940-1978, her first since 1973.