On February 27th, 1943, as the Chicago Defender went to press, writer Langston Hughes had found a literary friend – Jesse B. Semple, whom he fondly called “Simple.” Hughes first met Simple – his prototype, that is – in a Harlem bar. The man invited Hughes to join him and his girlfriend Mary, at their table and struck up what Hughes would later title, a “Conversation at Midnight.” It was a rambling, rather useless chat about making cranks in a defense factory. In it was a quirky undertow of philosophy that pulled the evening along. The man did not know what the cranks he made were used for. Mary thought he ought to. The man protested that White folks never told Blacks those kinds of things. “I dont crank with those cranks. I just make ’em.” As their banter went on, an exasperated Mary countered, “You sound right simple.” And the rest, to the delight of Hughes’ readers, was history – twenty-three years of Simple Speaks His Mind.
– Inspiring Moments in Black History by Janus Adams