The Life of Langston Hughes

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hughes Biography and Contribution

James Mercer Langston Hughes is an African American writer, poet, and novelist. He was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. Hughes was named after both his father and his grand-uncle, John Mercer Langston who, in 1888, became the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress from Virginia. He attended Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, where he began writing poetry. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University. During these years, he held odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman(2). Hughes was the most popular and versatile of the many writers connected with the Harlem Renaissance. (1)
 In the 1920s, he joined the Harlem Renaissance and with his outstanding works of art he became one of the leading figures of the movement (3). He is best known for his writings during the Harlem Renaissance, the period after World War I and through the middle of the 1930s depression. Although, Langston Hughes is best known for his poetry, we should not forget about his drama Mulatto, written in 1935 and was performed on Broadway almost 400 times. Hughes published more than three dozen books during his life, starting out with poetry and then expanding into novels, short stories, and plays.
Langston Hughes expresses the hardships and dreams of all African Americans. How their lifestyle was “taken away” and they were forced into white culture.  He contributed in writing about African Americans and recognizing their music and type of speech. Through his writings he made many contributions to following generations by writing about African American issues in creative ways including the use of blues and jazz. Langston Hughes captured the scene of Harlem life in the early 20th century significantly influencing American Literature.   He wanted his readers to have an idea of what African Americans went through during slavery and how they overcame their trials and tribulations. Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in May 22, 1967, in New York. In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York City, has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed "Langston Hughes Place." (2)

1.    Baym, Nina, Wayne Franklin, Philip F. Gura, and Arnold Krupat. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 7th ed. Vol. D. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007. Print
2.    "Langston Hughes." - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More. Academy of American Poets, 1997. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <>.
"Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance." Online Magazine and Writers' Network. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <>.


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