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Biography of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967)

Born in Joplin, Missouri, James Langston Hughes was a member of an abolitionist family. He was the great-great-grandson of Charles Henry Langston, brother of John Mercer Langston, who was the first Black American to be elected to public office, in 1855. Hughes attended Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, but began writing poetry in the eighth grade, and was selected as Class Poet. His father didn't think he would be able to make a living at writing, and encouraged him to pursue a more practical career. He paid his son's tuition to Columbia University on the grounds he study engineering. After a short time, Langston dropped out of the program with a B+ average; all the while he continued writing poetry. His first published poem was also one of his most famous, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", and it appeared in Brownie's Book. Later, his poems, short plays, essays and short stories appeared in the NAACP publication Crisis Magazine and in Opportunity Magazine and other publications.

One of Hughes' finest essays appeared in the Nation in 1926, entitled "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain". It spoke of Black writers and poets, "who would surrender racial pride in the name of a false integration," where a talented Black writer would prefer to be considered a poet, not a Black poet, which to Hughes meant he subconsciously wanted to write like a white poet. Hughes argued, "no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself." He wrote in this essay, "We younger Negro artists now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they aren't, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too... If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, as strong as we know how and we stand on the top of the mountain, free within ourselves."

In 1923, Hughes traveled abroad on a freighter to the Senegal, Nigeria, the Cameroons, Belgium Congo, Angola, and Guinea in Africa, and later to Italy and France, Russia and Spain. One of his favorite pastimes whether abroad or in Washington, D.C. or Harlem, New York was sitting in the clubs listening to blues, jazz and writing poetry. Through these experiences a new rhythm emerged in his writing, and a series of poems such as "The Weary Blues" were penned. He returned to Harlem, in 1924, the period known as the Harlem Renaissance. During this period, his work was frequently published and his writing flourished. In 1925 he moved to Washington, D.C., still spending more time in blues and jazz clubs. He said, "I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on Seventh Street...(these songs) had the pulse beat of the people who keep on going." At this same time, Hughes accepted a job with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, editor of the Journal of Negro Life and History and founder of Black History Week in 1926. He returned to his beloved Harlem later that year.

Langston Hughes received a scholarship to Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. degree in 1929. In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Lit.D by his alma mater; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935 and a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1940. Based on a conversation with a man he knew in a Harlem bar, he created a character know as My Simple Minded Friend in a series of essays in the form of a dialogue. In 1950, he named this lovable character Jess B. Simple, and authored a series of books on him.

Langston Hughes was a prolific writer. In the forty-odd years between his first book in 1926 and his death in 1967, he devoted his life to writing and lecturing. He wrote sixteen books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of "editorial" and "documentary" fiction, twenty plays, children's poetry, musicals and operas, three autobiographies, a dozen radio and television scripts and dozens of magazine articles. In addition, he edited seven anthologies. The long and distinguished list of Hughes' works includes: Not Without Laughter (1930); The Big Sea (1940); I Wonder As I Wander" (1956), his autobiographies. His collections of poetry include: The Weary Blues (1926); The Negro Mother and other Dramatic Recitations (1931); The Dream Keeper (1932); Shakespeare In Harlem (1942); Fields of Wonder (1947); One Way Ticket (1947); The First Book of Jazz (1955); Tambourines To Glory (1958); and Selected Poems (1959); The Best of Simple (1961). He edited several anthologies in an attempt to popularize black authors and their works. Some of these are: An African Treasury (1960); Poems from Black Africa (1963); New Negro Poets: USA (1964) and The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers (1967).

Published posthumously were: Five Plays By Langston Hughes (1968); The Panther and The Lash: Poems of Our Times (1969) and Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Writings of Social Protest (1973); The Sweet Flypaper of Life with Roy DeCarava (1984).

Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967. His residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission. His block of East 127th Street was renamed "Langston Hughes Place".


Biography by: Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako)


29 Poems written by Langston Hughes

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | [Page Views] | Comments | First Lines


Page ViewsPoemComments
131743 Quiet Girl Comments and analysis of Quiet Girl by Langston Hughes 135 Comments
102390 The Negro Mother Comments and analysis of The Negro Mother by Langston Hughes 166 Comments
54944 Problems Comments and analysis of Problems by Langston Hughes 126 Comments
54760 Justice Comments and analysis of Justice by Langston Hughes 26 Comments
53284 The Weary Blues Comments and analysis of The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes 117 Comments
53284 The Weary Blues
44490 Daybreak In Alabama Comments and analysis of Daybreak In Alabama by Langston Hughes 12 Comments
40321 Juke Box Love Song Comments and analysis of Juke Box Love Song by Langston Hughes 68 Comments
38282 Po' Boy Blues Comments and analysis of Po' Boy Blues by Langston Hughes 14 Comments
36002 Night Funeral In Harlem Comments and analysis of Night Funeral In Harlem by Langston Hughes 90 Comments
33880 Fire-Caught Comments and analysis of Fire-Caught by Langston Hughes 87 Comments
31738 Minstrel Man Comments and analysis of Minstrel Man by Langston Hughes 8 Comments
31257 The Blues Comments and analysis of The Blues by Langston Hughes 8 Comments
30923 Ardella Comments and analysis of Ardella by Langston Hughes 23 Comments
28186 Walkers With The Dawn Comments and analysis of Walkers With The Dawn by Langston Hughes 6 Comments
25139 Advertisement For The Waldorf-Astoria Comments and analysis of Advertisement For The Waldorf-Astoria by Langston Hughes 96 Comments
24381 Madam And Her Madam Comments and analysis of Madam And Her Madam by Langston Hughes 62 Comments
21671 Madam And The Phone Bill Comments and analysis of Madam And The Phone Bill by Langston Hughes 13 Comments
5315 Dream Deferred Comments and analysis of Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes 71 Comments
5095 Mother to Son Comments and analysis of Mother to Son by Langston Hughes 225 Comments
3553 Let America Be America Again Comments and analysis of Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes 168 Comments
3326 I, Too, Sing America Comments and analysis of I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes 168 Comments
3267 Democracy Comments and analysis of Democracy by Langston Hughes 8 Comments
2459 Merry-Go-Round Comments and analysis of Merry-Go-Round by Langston Hughes 25 Comments
1709 Theme For English B Comments and analysis of Theme For English B by Langston Hughes 187 Comments
1677 Still Here Comments and analysis of Still Here by Langston Hughes 122 Comments
1418 Life Is Fine Comments and analysis of Life Is Fine by Langston Hughes 174 Comments
842 Freedoms Plow Comments and analysis of Freedoms Plow by Langston Hughes 129 Comments
842 Freedoms Plow
725 Dream Variations Comments and analysis of Dream Variations by Langston Hughes 140 Comments
554 The Negro Speaks Of Rivers Comments and analysis of The Negro Speaks Of Rivers by Langston Hughes 167 Comments


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