James Mercer Langston Hughes, born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He is best known for his contributions to the Harlem Renaissance, a flourishing of black intellectual, literary and artistic life that took place in the 1920s in several American cities. Hughes was born to Charles Langston and Mary Patterson Leary. His father was an active educator and activist for the right to vote and the rights of African Americans.
His mother remarried an elite and politically active member of the Langston family. Hughes was the second child of this union. In 1931, Hughes and Prentiss Taylor created Golden Stair Press, which published portfolios and books with works of art by Taylor and texts by Hughes. He also wrote for The Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper that published a headline at the top of the page reading LANGSTON HUGHES'S BOOK OF TRASH POEMS.
In Looking for Langston (198), British filmmaker Isaac Julien stated that Hughes was a black gay icon. Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had been historically ignored or minimized. 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. Hughes is remembered for his powerful writing style that captured the African American experience in a unique way.
His works include ProSeletters from Langston (University of California Press), 201 Selected Letters by Langston Hughes (Alfred A.). He is also remembered for his activism and his commitment to civil rights. His legacy lives on through his works and his commitment to justice.