Biography of Langston Hughes

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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“In honor of black history month, I decided to write a biography on Langston Hughes, a black writer and poet who lived during the Harlem Renaissance, a prosperous time for African Americans in the segregated United States. Born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin Missouri, James Mercer Langston Hughes was born to two parents that would soon separate. He grew up with his grandmother and moved throughout the Midwest until he settled in Cleveland following his grandmother’s death. In Cleveland, Hughes lived with his mother and step-father and attended high school.

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In these formative years, Hughes’ writing improved. He had his first piece published in a school magazine and later joined the staff if the magazine. He was later introduced to Carl Sandburg and Walk Whitman by an English teacher; the poets became Hughes’ earliest influences. During one summer, he lived with his father in Toluca, Mexico. Unfortunately for the two, neither got along. Although the conflict was painful, it was fruitful because it contributed to Hughes’s maturity in his life and in his writing Upon returning to school, Langston Hughes began writing poetry of distinction.

After graduating high school, Langston Hughes explored many interests that would sculpt the young artist. The summer after graduating from high school he wrote the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, a poem that helped him to convince his father to pay for one year of education at Columbia University. At the institution in New York, he explored Harlem and fell

in love with the city where he also contributed to the Harlem Renaissance. He only attended Columbia for one year before he dropped out and started working on a freighter. As a steward, Langston was able to travel to Africa and Europe and experience different people, places, and cultures that would show their influence in his later work. In 1924, Hughes returned to the United States and in 1925, he met a poet who would help expand the audience of Hughes’ poems.

The newfound audience helped spread Langton Hughes’ work and his popularity. In 1925, his poem “The Weary Blues” won a competition in a magazine and helped him to earn a scholarship to Lincoln University. At the university, he gained the attention of a novelist who would help Hughes create his first book of poetry. From this time on, his poetry was known to feature a distinct style and a commitment to black themes and heritage. He continued writing poems and plays for many decades, and was one of the first to incorporate music and different cultural beats into his poetry. Langston Hughes remained popular until his death on May 22, 1967 from complications with prostate cancer. Hughes left a lasting legacy as a founding father of the Harlem Renaissance as well as one of the most prolific African American writers of all time.”

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Biography of Langston Hughes. (2021, May 29). Retrieved from