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. Born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes was the son of James Nathaniel and Mary Patterson Langston Hughes. His father left the family soon after his birth and his mother moved to Lawrence, Kansas with her children.
After the death of Mary Langston, Hughes moved to Lincoln, Illinois to live with her mother and new husband. Hughes began writing poetry at a young age and published his first poem in The Crisis magazine in 1921. He went on to publish several books of poetry, including The Weary Blues (1926) and Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). He also wrote novels, plays, short stories and newspaper columns. His works often focused on the African-American experience and he was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1932, Hughes published his first children's book Popo and Fifina. In the 1950s he began publishing books for children regularly, including his First Book series which was designed to instill a sense of pride and respect for the cultural achievements of African Americans in their youth. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel, appeared in 1994. This collection includes some of his most famous works such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Let America Be America Again”. Langston Hughes died on May 22, 1967 in New York City at the age of 65. His legacy lives on through his works which continue to inspire readers around the world.