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. His works often focused on the period when black was in vogue, which was later paraphrased as when Harlem was in vogue. Hughes moved to New York City when he was young, where he made his career.
He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and soon began his studies at Columbia University in New York City. He eventually graduated from Lincoln University. In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote plays and short stories. He also published several non-fiction works.
From 1942 to 1962, as the civil rights movement gained strength, he wrote an exhaustive weekly column in a major black newspaper, The Chicago Defender. Hughes had a complex ancestry. Both of his paternal great-grandmothers were enslaved Africans, and his two paternal great-grandparents owned white slaves in Kentucky. His maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson, was of African-American, French, English, and Native American descent. Hughes' work has been featured in film and theater productions since the late 20th century.
In Looking for Langston (198), British filmmaker Isaac Julien stated that he was a black gay icon. Film portrayals of Hughes include the role of Gary LeRoi Gray as a teenage Hughes in the short film Salvation (200) (based on part of his autobiography The Big Sea), and Daniel Sunjata as Hughes in The Brother to Brother (200).On May 22nd 1962, Hughes died from complications from prostate cancer. As a tribute to his poetry, his funeral contained little spoken praise but was filled with jazz and blues music. Although best known for his modern, free-form poetry with a superficial simplicity that masked deeper symbolism, Hughes also worked in fiction, theater and film. While Hughes reportedly had several affairs with women during his lifetime, he never married or had children. 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. 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 Pittsburgh Courier published a great headline at the top of the page: LANGSTON HUGHES BOOK OF POEMS TRASH. When he was born in Joplin Missouri on February 1st 1902 James Mercer Langston Hughes didn't live in Missouri for long. Although Hughes had previously published a children's book in 1932 (Popo and Fifina), in the 1950s he began publishing specific books for children regularly including his First Book series which was designed to inculcate a sense of pride and respect for the cultural achievements of African Americans in their youth. Langston Hughes' legacy lives on through his collection of literary works. 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.