James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist who left a lasting legacy in the creative community of Harlem. Born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902 to parents Caroline (Carrie) Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes, he moved to New York City when he was young to pursue his studies at Columbia University. Despite the difficulties he faced during his lifetime, Langston managed to win many spectacular awards. His residence at number 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has been granted a historic site by the New York City Preservation Commission and renamed Langston Hughes Place.
Growing up in a series of Midwestern cities, Hughes became a prolific writer at a young age. 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. He made his career in New York City and became known in publishers in The Crisis magazine and then in book publishers. After the death of his grandmother, Langston settled in Cleveland with his mother, stepfather and younger brother. Ten years later, in 1869, the widow Mary Patterson Leary remarried Charles Langston, an elite and politically active member of the Langston family. After his marriage, Charles Langston moved with his family to Kansas where he actively worked as an educator and activist for the right to vote and the rights of African Americans. When Hughes retired, he continued to receive recognition for his well-deserved achievements and awards.
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel, appeared in 1994. Following the death of Langston Hughes on May 22, 1967 from complications caused by prostate cancer, he continued to be remembered for his immense contributions.