Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes life.

Langston HughesJames Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Lincoln, Illinois, that Hughes began writing poetry. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University. During these years, he held odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes's first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature.


A central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of African-American culture in 1920's and 30's, Missouri-born Langston Hughes used his poetry, novels, plays, and essays to champion his people and voice his concerns about race and social justice.

His youth was marked by poverty, the separation of his parents--his father emigrated to Mexico where Hughes would later visit--a matriarchal, church-going education, and a nomadic series of moves that would eventually bring him to New York City in 1921. There, with some money sent by his father, he enrolled in Columbia University, wrote his first verse, and began to publish in THE CRISIS, the historic magazine of the N.A.A.C.P., founded by W.E.B. DuBois.

When funds for continuing college dried up, Hughes moved to Harlem at the height of its golden era. For the remainder of the decade he would associate with all her prominent figures DuBois, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Jean Toomer, Arna Bontemps, and Carl Van Vechten; receive patronage from the formidable but controlling Charlotte Mason; make voyages of self-discovery to Africa and Europe, and return to the States with a freer, more confident vision of his own identity as an African-American, an artist, a leftist--(he would later spend some time in Russia and answer for it in the McCarthy Hearings), and a HOMOSEXUAL.

His prolific literary career was launched in 1926 with a volume of jazz poems, THE WEARY BLUES, written for performance with musical accompaniment in the famous Harlem clubs of the era. It captured both the Opportunity Prize and the prestigious Award and financed for Hughes the completion of his university education at Lincoln, PA. Among his many poetry titles THE NEGRO MOTHER (1931), THE DREAM KEEPER (1932), and MONTAGE OF A DREAM DEFERRED (1951) argue passionately a belief in human equality, a wish for color-blind brotherhood, and a growing disillusionment with the American dream. His novel TAMBOURINES TO GLORY (1958) appeared as a musical play (1963), and his two volumes of autobiography THE BIG SEA and I WONDER AS I WANDER, together with his essay about his  with the N.A.A.C.P. and the Civil Rights Movement, FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, Chart Hughes' long commitment to comradeship and equality. As those dreams began to bear fruit in the tumultuous 60's, Hughes was lionized with increasing frequency. He continued to devote his pen to the ideals of his youth, as well as to take an increasing interest in the movement toward Afro-Centric values for black Americans. Hailed as "The Negro Poet Laureate", He died in his beloved Harlem on May 22, 1967.


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