James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 — May 22, 1962) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. An early innovator of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He is famous for writing about the period when black was in vogue, which was later paraphrased as when Harlem was in vogue. Growing up in a series of Midwestern cities, Hughes became a prolific writer at a young age.
He 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. Although he retired, he became known in publishers in New York, first in The Crisis magazine and then in book publishers, and became known in the creative community of Harlem. 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. Like many African-Americans, Hughes had a complex ancestry.
Both of Hughes' paternal great-grandmothers were enslaved Africans, and his two paternal great-grandparents owned white slaves in Kentucky. According to Hughes, one of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller from Henry County, who is said to be related to statesman Henry Clay. The other supposed paternal ancestor that Hughes named was Silas Cushenberry, a slave trader from Clark County. Hughes wrote that Cushenberry was a Jewish slave trader, but a 19th century study of the genealogy of the Cushenberry family found no Jewish affiliation.
Hughes' maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson, was of African-American, French, English, and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race descent, before her studies. In 1859, Lewis Leary joined John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, where he was mortally wounded. From El Negro Talks About Rivers (1920).
My soul has grown deeply like rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates at dawn. I built my cabin near the Congo and it let me sleep. I looked at the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the Mississippi crow when Abe Lincoln went to New Orleans, and I saw his muddy breast turn golden at dusk. The night is beautiful, so the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful, so the eyes of my people are also beautiful those of the Sun. Beautiful, too, are the souls of my people.
Hughes appeared reciting his poetry on the album Weary Blues (MGM, 195), with music by Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather, and also contributed the lyrics to Uhuru Afrika (Roulette, 1960) by Randy Weston. Hughes' life has been portrayed 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, Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had been historically ignored or minimized. 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).
Hughes' Dream Harlem, a documentary by Jamal Joseph, examines Hughes' work and environment. On the day, 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. Langston Hughes was a singular voice in American poetry, who wrote with vivid images and jazz-influenced rhythms about the daily experience of blacks in the United States.
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. Theories abound about his sexual orientation; many believe that Hughes, known for his strong affection for the black men in his life, planted clues about his homosexuality throughout his poems (something that Walt Whitman, one of his key influences, knew how to do in his own work). However, there is no open evidence to support this, and some argue that Hughes was, if anything, asexual and disinterested in sex.
Hughes died, but his legacy lives on in 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. After his marriage, Charles Langston moved with his family to Kansas, where he actively worked as an educator and activist for the vote and rights of African Americans. 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 1, 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. 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 was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the flourishing of black intellectual, literary and artistic life that took place in the 1920s in several American cities, particularly in Harlem. After the death of Mary Langston, Hughes moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with her mother and her new husband. Langston set a tone, a standard of brotherhood, friendship and cooperation, that all of us must follow. Ten years later, in 1869, the widow Mary Patterson Leary remarried, an elite and politically active member of the Langston family.
They had two children; the second was Langston Hughes, who according to most sources was born in 1901 in Joplin, Missouri (although Hughes himself states in his autobiography that he was born in 190). . .