The Life and Legacy of Langston Hughes

Learn about the life and legacy of American poet Langston Hughes. Discover when he died from complications from prostate cancer.

The Life and Legacy of Langston Hughes

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. Langston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, although he himself stated in his autobiography that he was born in 1901. His mother, Mary Patterson Leary, was a schoolteacher and his father, James Hughes, was a lawyer. After his marriage to Charles Langston, Mary Patterson Leary moved with her family to Kansas where she actively worked as an educator and activist for the right to vote and the rights of African Americans.

Langston Hughes was a black gay icon according to British filmmaker Isaac Julien in his film Looking for Langston (198). In 1931, Prentiss Taylor and Langston Hughes 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. Langston Hughes died from complications from prostate cancer on May 22nd, 196 in New York City.

In its report, the New York City Preservation Commission has granted its residence at number 20 East 127th Street in Harlem a historic site and East 127th Street has been renamed Langston Hughes Place. As a tribute to his poetry, his funeral contained little spoken praise but was filled with jazz and blues music. Langston Hughes is remembered as one of the greatest contributors to the artistic realm of the Harlem Renaissance. He set a tone of brotherhood, friendship and cooperation that we must all follow.

His legacy lives on through his works of art which continue to inspire people around the world.

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