Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902, - May 22, 1967) was an African American poet, novelist, playwright, and newspaper columnist. He was born in Joplin, Missouri. He was raised by his grandmother, and when he was thirteen years old he began to write poetry.

Hughes's grandmother influenced his life and imagination deeply. She took him to Oswatomie where she shared the platform as an honored guest of Teddy Rooosevelt,she was the last survivng widow of the 1859 Jonh Brown raid. Langston lived briefly with his mother who had remarried a man name Homer Clark. The time Langston spent in Mexico in 1919 with his father made him unhappy.Most of the time Langston depressed contemplated suicide.

Hughes’ early life prepared him well to write about humanity, for as a child and young man he lived in many places and met many different kinds of people . His growing -up years were, altogether, not very happy. But they provided him with experiences that many people never have. It was in Lincoln, Illinois where he stayed with his mother, that he discovered books. Upon his graduation, Hughes spent a year in Mexico and then a year attending Columbia University.

Like many creative Americans at the time, such as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes spent time in Paris, France. During the height of the great gathering of minds in Montparnasse, for most of 1924, he lived at 15, rue de Nollet.

Critic in the black middle class objected to some of Hughes poems. He decided to serve the black masses and to avold middle class affectation.His art was for the poeple of the world to understand. Black or Jew whoever he could get to.Opening someones mind was why he was there.

In November 1924 he moved to Washington D.C Hughes' first book of poetry, The Weary Blues was published in 1926. In 1929 he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. One of his biographers stated that in 1930 his first novel Not Without laughter won the Harmon goal medal for literature. Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, color portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties.

He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in “Montage of a Dream Deferred”.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contribution of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Langston Hughes’ art reflects this deep understanding of black people. But it also expresses the love for them. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.

Much of Langston’s poetry tries to capture the rhythms of blues music, the music he believed to be the true expression of the black spirit. His published works through 1965 include nine volumes of poetry, eight of short stories and sketches, two novels, seven children’s books, a quantity of plays, essays, translation, and a two-volume autobiography. Hughes was inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1961. Even after Langston Hughes helped young blacks in the south gain confidence in the 1920's he is still a large pat of popular culture today. His style is seen in rap music, with groups like Outkast,Mos Def ,and Nappy Roots. They use his style by using jazz and blues to tell a story.Hughes open the door to whites who waned to understand black Americans.

Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in New York City.

Table of contents
1 Quotation
2 A Poem by Langston Hughes: "Cross"
3 External link


I stay cool, and dig all jive,
That's the way I stay alive.
My motto, as I live and learn, is
Dig and be dug, in return.

A Poem by Langston Hughes: "Cross"

My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I'm gonna die,
Being neither white nor black.

External link