Langston Hughes

James Langston Hughes (1902-1967)


Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in the city of Joplin Missouri. His first name really being James. He lived with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas.  Hughes grew up insecure and unsure of himself because he didn't live with his mom or dad.  When his grandmother died, his mother summoned him to live with her.  While living with his mother, in eighth grade he wrote his first verse and was named class poet.  He later moved to Cleveland but his parents went to Chicago.  He stayed in Cleveland to finish high school. He had a poem published in the Central High monthly.  He was recognized by the staff and had his poem published regularly. 


        He lived with his dad during the summer of his junior year in Mexico. He went back to Cleveland to finish high school. On a train back to Mexico he wrote the poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Hughes entered Columbia University in the fall of 1921. He stayed there for only a year then he found Harlem. He wrote "The Big Sea", which was a point of view of what was going on in Harlem Renaissance. His poem "The Weary Blues", won first prize in the poetry section of the 1925 Opportunity magazine literary contest. In is poems the rhythms were African American music, such as jazz and blues. He also did a free verse. 


         He returned to school in 1926. He went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. A woman in her seventies named Charlotte Mason directed Hughes in his literary career. She convinced him to write a novel, "Not Without Laughter". In 1942, during World War Two, Hughes began writing a column for the African American newspaper, The Chicago Defender. It was about a fictional character named Jesse B. Semple.  Hughes had just enough money to support him. In 1947 he was able to afford a house in Harlem, which had been his dream. He then wrote "Montage of a Dream Deferred", which became one of his best known volumes of poetry. Langston died May 22 1967. He lived a good and fulfilling life.