The Life and Legacy of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was an American poet & social activist who wrote with vivid images & jazz-influenced rhythms about the daily experience of blacks in the United States. Learn more about his life & legacy.

The Life and Legacy of Langston Hughes

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. He was born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1901 to teacher Carrie Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes. His parents had two children; the second was Langston Hughes, according to most sources, born in 1901 in Joplin, Missouri (although Hughes himself states in his autobiography that he was born in 190).Growing up in a series of Midwestern cities, Hughes became a prolific writer at a young age. In high school, he learned about the works of the poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1896), another poet from the Midwest.

At this time, he also began writing poetry and developing his unique style. He began to send his work to magazines, but all of them were rejected. In 1924, Hughes went to live with his mother in Washington, D. C., expecting to earn enough money to go back to college. However, working as a hotel waiter paid very little, and life in the nation's capital, where racial tensions were fierce, made him unhappy.

But he was able to write a lot of poems. The Weary Blues won first prize in 1925 in a literary contest sponsored by Opportunity, a magazine published by the National Urban League. Later that summer, one of his essays and another poem won prizes in the Crisis literary contest. Meanwhile, Hughes had caught the attention of Carl Van Vechten, a novelist and critic, who organized the publication of Hughes' first volume of poetry, The Weary Blues (19). After the death of Mary Langston, Hughes moved to Lincoln, Illinois to live with her mother and new husband. 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 from college without graduating, he became known in publishers in New York City, first in The Crisis magazine and then in book publishers. 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. Ten years later, in 1869, the widow Mary Patterson Leary remarried an elite and politically active member of the Langston family. 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. The Pittsburgh Courier published a great headline at the top of the page: LANGSTON HUGHES BOOK OF POEMS TRASH. Langston set a tone - a standard of brotherhood, friendship and cooperation - that all of us must follow. 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. This included 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. American author Langston Hughes was a moving spirit in the 1920s art movement often called the Harlem Renaissance.

He expressed the mind and spirit of most African Americans for nearly half a century. 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. Hughes passed away on May 22nd 1962 but his legacy lives on through his works which continue to inspire generations today.

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