James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He was an early innovator of the literary art form called jazz poetry, and is best known as the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. On May 22nd, 1967, Hughes passed away from complications from prostate cancer in New York City. His residence at number 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has since been granted a historic site by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed Langston Hughes Place.Hughes was born in 1901 in Joplin, Missouri to Charles Langston and Mary Patterson Leary.
Charles Langston was an educator and activist for African American rights, including the right to vote. After his marriage to Mary Patterson Leary, the family moved to Kansas. Ten years later, Mary Patterson Leary remarried an elite and politically active member of the Langston family.Hughes was a prolific writer of poetry, novels, short stories, plays, children's stories, essays and lyrics for operas and musicals. He was also a social activist who worked hard to inculcate racial pride in the African-American community.
His works are still studied today in universities around the world.The Beinecke Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale University contains the Langston Hughes documents (1862-1980) and the Langston Hughes Collection (1924-196). These collections contain letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, works of art and objects that document Hughes's life. In 1931 Prentiss Taylor and Langston Hughes created Golden Stair Press, publishing portfolios and books with works of art by Prentiss Taylor and texts by Langston Hughes.On May 22nd 1967, Hughes passed away from complications from prostate cancer. His funeral contained little spoken praise but was filled with jazz and blues music as a tribute to his poetry.
In Looking for Langston (198), British filmmaker Isaac Julien stated that he was a black gay icon. Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had been historically ignored or minimized.Through African-American oral tradition and based on the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled in her grandson a lasting sense of racial pride. On the 50th anniversary of his death, let us remember the legacy of Langston Hughes - a talented writer who set a tone of brotherhood, friendship and cooperation.