Langston Hughes was a poet, novelist, playwright, and social activist who left an indelible mark on the art movement of the Harlem Renaissance. His work challenged the notion that African-American artists were merely imitating European influences, and instead argued that they were producing their own unique works. In his essay The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, Hughes wrote about black artists who embraced their racial identity without fear or shame. This was met with criticism from some black critics, who wanted to see more positive representations of African Americans in art.
Despite this, Hughes' work was seen as one of his best and he was even involved in changing the name of the period from the Black Renaissance to the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes was born in 1901 in Joplin, Missouri, although he stated in his autobiography that he was born in 190. His grandmother, Mary Langston, instilled in him a sense of racial pride through African-American oral tradition. He attended Columbia University for a year before dropping out to pursue writing full-time.
During this time, he lived in Paris for part of 1924 and worked as a goalkeeper. He also met black jazz musicians during this time. In 1931, Hughes and Prentiss Taylor created Golden Stair Press, which published portfolios and books with works of art by Prentiss Taylor and texts by Langston Hughes. 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), which contain letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, works of art and objects that document Hughes's life.Hughes' legacy lives on through his work.
His poem Me Too is a powerful meditation on the day when unequal treatment would end. His 1978 poem I Dream a World is a message of survival and hope. We can also look to his life for inspiration; he believed in the dignity of all blacks to appear in art regardless of their social status. As he said himself: “My poems are not very delicate”.
But so is life.