February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, the second child of Carrie Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes. After the separation of his parents, while his mother travelled seeking employment, young Langston Hughes was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas where he spent most of his childhood. While in grammar school in Lincoln, Hughes was elected class poet. During high school in Cleveland, Ohio, he wrote for the school newspaper, edited the yearbook, and began to write his first short stories, poetry, and dramatic plays. His first piece of jazz poetry, "When Sue Wears Red", was written while he was in high school. It was during this time that he discovered his love of books.
Hughes worked various odd jobs, before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe. In Europe, Hughes left the S.S. Malone for a temporary stay in Paris. In November 1924, Hughes returned to the U. S. to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. Hughes worked at various odd jobs before gaining a white-collar job in 1925 as a personal assistant to the historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. As the work demands limited his time for writing, Hughes quit the position to work as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel. There he encountered the poet Vachel Lindsay, with whom he shared some poems. Impressed with the poems, Lindsay publicized his discovery of a new black poet. By this time, Hughes's earlier work had been published in magazines and was about to be collected into his first book of poetry.
I’m all alone in this world, she said,
Ain’t got nobody to share my bed,
Ain’t got nobody to hold my hand—
The truth of the matter’s
I ain’t got no man.
Big Boy opened his mouth and said,
Trouble with you is
You ain’t got no head!
If you had a head and used your mind
You could have me with you
All the time.
She answered, Babe, what must I do?
He said, Share your bed—
And your money, too.