February 1st, Joplin, Missouri
James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a young 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 that Hughes began writing poetry. After graduating from high school, he spent a year in Mexico followed by a year at Columbia University in New York City. During this time, he held odd jobs such as assistant cook, launderer, and busboy. He also 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, (Knopf, 1926) 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, (Knopf, 1930) won the Harmon gold medal for literature.
Life is Fine
I went down to the river, I set down on the bank. I tried to think but couldn't, So I jumped in and sank.
I came up once and hollered! I came up twice and cried! If that water hadn't a-been so cold I might've sunk and died.
But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!
I took the elevator Sixteen floors above the ground. I thought about my baby And thought I would jump down.
I stood there and I hollered! I stood there and I cried! If it hadn't a-been so high I might've jumped and died.
But it was High up there! It was high!
So since I'm still here livin', I guess I will live on. I could've died for love— But for livin' I was born
Though you may hear me holler, And you may see me cry— I'll be dogged, sweet baby, If you gonna see me die.
Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!