Langston Hughes

February 1, 1902 - May 22, 1967
Joplin, Missouri

Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was young and he moved to Lincoln, Illinois with this grandma before going to Cleveland, Ohio with his mother and new husband. When he was in high school, he began writing poetry. He spent a year in Mexico and then a year at Columbia University in New York. In 1924, he moved to Washington D.C. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Hughes cited Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his main influences, and is well known for his colorful portrayal of black life in America in the 20's through the 60's. In addition to poems, he wrote novels, short stories, and plays. His work was incredibly important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's. The critic Donald B. Gibson noted that he spread his message humorously, yet seriously to his audience. He also says that because of this, his poetry could be read by more people than possibly any other American poet.  


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.