Javatpoint Logo
Javatpoint Logo

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

From Joplin, Missouri, James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist who died on May 22, 1967. One of the pioneers of the literary subgenre known as jazz poetry is regarded to be Hughes. The Harlem Renaissance is most well-known for having been launched by him. His depiction of a time when "the Negro was in vogue," which was ultimately translated as "when Harlem was in vogue," gained him a reputation. Hughes was up in a number of Midwestern communities, where he quickly established himself as a prolific writer. The young man relocated to New York City and established a career.

He commenced his collegiate career at Columbia University in New York City after graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio. Despite quitting school, he was nonetheless taken cognizance of by New York publications for his efforts in The Crisis magazine and subsequently for his books. He even became well-known within the Harlem cultural community. He did graduate from Lincoln University. Together with poems, Hughes also wrote the script and short story collections. In addition, he published several nonfiction publications. From 1942 to 1962, while the civil rights movement was gaining pace, he penned an in-depth weekly column for The Chicago Defender, a prominent black newspaper, from 1942 until 1962, when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum.

Ancestry and Early Years

Hughes' paternal great-grandparents were both African Americans who had been slaves, and his maternal great-great-grandmothers were also African Americans. He claims that Sam Clay, a Scottish whiskey distiller from Henry County, Kentucky, is reputedly a relative of statesman Henry Clay. Silas Cushenberry, a slave dealer from Clark County, is a likely paternal ancestor, but there is no evidence that he was a Jewish slave dealer.

Hughes' great-grandmother Mary Patterson Leary was one of the first women to enroll at Oberlin College. Lewis Sheridan Leary, a participant in John Brown's attack on Harpers Ferry in 1859, was wedded to Leary. She has lineage through Native Americans, France, England, and Africa.

Ohio Anti-Slavery Society founder Charles Henry Langston had ten wives. Mary Patterson Leary was the tenth. In 1858, he and his younger brother John Mercer Langston were civil rights activists. Ten years later, Mary Pat Leary wedded into the wealthy, politically active Langston family.

Joplin, Missouri, was the birthplace of Langston Hughes in 1901. Charles Langston, her father, was a champion of African Americans' right to vote. Later, she wed James Nathaniel Hughes and began a career as a teacher (1871-1934). In 1902, Hughes, the father of Langston Hughes, attempted to flee the widespread racism in the United States 1902 by traveling to Mexico and Cuba.

By relying on oral tradition and the recollections of her generation's activists, Hughes' maternal grandmother Mary Patterson Langston instilled in her grandson a sense of racial pride. He dedicated his entire life to supporting and celebrating downtrodden and ill-treated black people.

He was chosen as the grammar school's class poet and considered Helen Maria Chesnutt to be an inspirational teacher. Hughes didn't write poetry because it fit the notion that African Americans have rhythm; rather, he did it because he thought it had rhythm. While still in high school, he wrote his first work of jazz poetry, "When Sue Wears Red." Hughes started his first short story writing projects while editing the yearbook and contributing to the school newspaper.


Langston worked a variety of jobs in a variety of places, including West Africa, Europe, England, Paris, and the United States. Before landing a white-collar position as Carter G. Woodson's personal assistant in 1925, he held a variety of odd jobs. He left his job since it limited his writing time and went to work as a bus boy at a hotel. He met Vachel Lindsay there. They traded poetry, and Lindsay made the public aware of the new black poet he had discovered. At the time, Hughes was set to publish his first book of poetry after having his work published in publications. He enrolled in Lincoln University later that year. He turned to New York after graduating from the institution with a B.A. in 1929. For the remainder of his life, he called Harlem his home. In the 1930s, he moved to Westfield, New Jersey, and lived there. The complications from Hughes' gastrectomy surgery for hepatocellular carcinoma(prostrate cancer ) led to his death on May 22, 1967, at the age of 66.


According to several academics and biographers, Hughes was gay and embedded homosexual codes in many of his poems, just like Walt Whitman, whom Hughes claimed had an influence on his poetry. The father in Hughes' short story "Blessed Assurance" is upset over his son's effeminacy and "queerness." According to the biographer Aldrich, Hughes chose to remain secretive in order to maintain the trust and support of black churches and groups and prevent worsening his difficult financial circumstances.

The main biographer of Hughes, Arnold Rampersad, concluded that throughout his career and personal life, Hughes showed a penchant for African-American men. However, Rampersad disputes Hughes's homosexuality in his biography and comes to the conclusion that Hughes was likely asexual and passive in his relationships. But Hughes did exhibit love and respect for his fellow black guy (and woman). Other academics support his homosexuality, citing a number of rumored unpublished poems to an alleged black male lover as proof of his love of black males.


Hughes, who had undergone abdominal surgery for prostate cancer, died on May 22, 1967, at the age of 66, in the Stuyvesant Polyclinic in New York City. His remains are buried in the foyer's middle beneath a floor medallion at the Institute for Research Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. It brings you to a theatre where he is. It leads to a theatre with his name on it. Rivers is the name of the African cosmogram that is depicted on the floor. The poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" contains the title. The phrase "My spirit has grown deep like the rivers" appears within the core of the cosmogram.


In his debut poetry collection, The Weary Blues, Hughes collected his hallmark work, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (1926). The Crisis contained both Hughes's initial and final poetry. His contemporaries Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas all benefited greatly from his life and work.

During the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes and his contemporaries were critical of the black middle class in Harlem. To attain social equality, they perceived it as being too accommodative and embracing eurocentric norms and culture.

Hughes, a "people's poet," worked to reeducate both his audience and himself by bringing the black aesthetic philosophy to life. In both his poetry and fiction, he depicted the working-class black lives in America as being full of hardship, joy, laughter, and music. He challenged racial prejudice, denounced unfair social practices, and improved African America's perception of itself.

Ethnic nationalism and racial understanding without ego were important themes in Hughes' writing. In order to encourage pride in their rich black folklore and black beauty, his thoughts and ideas brought people of African descent and Africa together from all over the globe. Hughes was one of the few well-known black authors who promoted racial understanding as a stimulus of inspiration for black artists. The emphasis Hughes placed on folk and jazz patterns as the cornerstone of his poems of black superiority had an important technological impact in addition to acting as an illustration of social beliefs.

Political Journey

Hughes experienced a strong attraction to communism in the 1930s, like many other African-American intellectuals. Some of Hughes' poetry adopted a radical tone, despite the fact that he never officially joined the Communist party. He started writing about more complex and frequently darker topics.

Hughes's inventiveness found outlets in a variety of genres during his career. The Ways of White Folks, a collection of short stories that occasionally reflects bitterly on racial relations, was published by him in 1934. He went to Spain as a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper to chronicle the civil war. He co-wrote The Mulatto, a play about racial identity, with Zora Neale Hurston; the two authors, who were once close friends, fell out over the play's authorship. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, he also established theatre groups in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Harlem. Despite the fact that few of Hughes' own plays were financially successful, the production firms served as significant platforms for other black actors and playwrights. By the start of World War II, Hughes's politics had returned to the center.


  • Harmon Gold Medal for Literature (1930)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (1935)
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, Lincoln University (1943)
  • NAACP Spingarn Medal (1960)
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters (1961)

Next TopicMartin Luther King

Youtube For Videos Join Our Youtube Channel: Join Now


Help Others, Please Share

facebook twitter pinterest

Learn Latest Tutorials


Trending Technologies

B.Tech / MCA