Langston Hughes was an American author and poet who was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a flourishing of black intellectual, literary, and artistic life in the 1920s. Born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902, Hughes was primarily raised by his maternal grandmother Mary until her death in his teens. After that, he moved with his mother to several cities before settling in Cleveland, Ohio. In high school, Hughes was inspired by the works of poet Carl Sandburg and began writing poetry and developing his own unique style.
He sent his work to magazines but all were rejected. In 1924, Hughes moved to Washington D. C. with his mother in hopes of earning enough money to return to college.
Working as a hotel waiter paid very little and the racial tensions of the city made him unhappy. Despite this, he was able to write many poems and even won first prize in 1925 for The Weary Blues in a literary contest sponsored by Opportunity magazine. Hughes eventually moved to Lawrence, Kansas to live with his grandmother Mary Langston. It was here that he caught the attention of novelist and critic Carl Van Vechten who organized the publication of Hughes' first volume of poetry The Weary Blues (1926).
His work was met with great success and he continued to write for the rest of his life. In addition to writing poetry, Hughes also wrote plays, novels, short stories, essays, and children's books. He was also a leader in the civil rights movement and used his writing to advocate for racial equality. His work has been widely praised for its insight into African American life and culture and has been translated into many languages.
Today, the Langston Hughes Center serves as an educational and academic research center based on the legacy and vision of Langston Hughes. It is part of the Department of African and African American Studies at the University of California Press. His work continues to be celebrated around the world as an important part of American literature.