Langston Hughes – Biography

Category: Culture
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“Langston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His mother wanted him to work at a very young age but he wanted to get the proper schooling and told her “but, mama, with no training, what kind of job can I get that would pay enough to make it worthwhile leaving school? At least if i get a little education, I’ll be better able to help you afterwards” (Berry 17). After he graduated from high school, he moved to Mexico for a year, and then attended Columbia University in New York City. In 1924 he moved to Washington, DC and published his first poetry book “The Weary Blues.” A few years later he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Most of his work is known for portraying the lives of African Americans in the early 1900s. “He is very much an author for the African American masses and of democrats throughout the world” (Miller 25). Langston played a huge part of leading the Harlem Renaissance.

The poem Harlem written by Langston Hughes, relates to the hopes and dreams of African Americans in the United States. The poem questions what would happen to their dreams if they are not fulfilled. The poem was written during the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement. The Harlem Renaissance “marked the emergence of African Americans into the mainstream of the nations art, music, literature, and culture” (Hillstrom 3). Kevin Hillstrom writes, “Harlem was the center of African-American cultural and political growth.” During this time, Hughes published an essay titled “The Negro Artist and Racial Mountain.” In this essay Hughes declared his love for authentic black culture. (Hillstrom 50).

In the early 1950’s, racial segregation was at the forefront of many aspects of daily life. One example of this would be the racial relations in public housing that was different between african americans and whites. Why this was a concern for administrators and others leading the public housing sector was because african american families had an increasing need for public housing because of the inequalities between the races in matters of housing. As far as housing value in the market goes, african americans receive much less value for their housing in purchasing or rental transactions.

An article published in January of 1951 outlined the basis of the inequality issue, and also gave case for a project example to bridge the gap between african american families and white families. The example was called “Hilltown”, and in this example it was split half and half african american to whites, and outlined that it was not only a physical hardship on the african americans to experience the inequality of housing value, but also a psychological negative experience in a form of discrimination that was not widely noticeable.

This small example was an interracial example of how they could put african americans and whites on an equal playing field of rights. This was widely viewed as an attack to the whites view of having more “superior” rights based on status. In this time, the notion of equal rights was starting to gain some momentum as a movement but the sheer thought of challenging the scale of equality to level it, caused an uproar. However, perception of living alongside the blacks for the whites was not determined from their own personal contact with the african americans around them, but rather what was the generally contrasting to perception. This being said, it seemed favor toward biracial living lies with potential tenants that have not tried this set-up before. THe favor toward support was stronger than one would think given the time period. Projects such as these aimed to slowly introduce white and african american families coexisting but still with some segregation to stay within time constraints of perceived values.

In general, this example also falls along the point of the poem. The poem’s basis of thought is that the african americans have dreams that have been restricted but public thought and the author is debating whether that restriction will destroy the dreams in a sense or just fuel them to the point that they explode coming forth. Taking a new stance on the public thought was an instance to bring a catalyst to let those dreams explode. As a step in the right direction brings change that the author so hoped for and underwrote in the lines of his poems.

Hughes often wrote in free verse, which is “poetry, usually unrhymed, that does not adhere to the metrical regularity of traditional verse” (Abcarian, Klotz, Cohen 1013). Harlem includes eleven lines, six of those lines are questions and one declarative statement. A lot of the poem included similes comparing the dream to “a raisin in the sun” and “rotten meat.”

The poem has positive impact on African Americans. Since the poem was written during the Harlem Renaissance, it gave hope and inspiration to African Americans during that time. It encouraged people to follow their dreams and to work hard for what they wanted in life. The poem also shows the importance of equality and liberty.

In the poem the dream he is talking about is not the type of dream you have when you’re asleep, but the hopes, wishes, and goals someone dreams to achieve. The poem does not provide a solution to the problem of the postponed dream, but rather questions what happens when the dream is left untouched. For African Americans their dreams were unable to be acted upon in most cases at this point in time so they never were able to accomplish their dreams.

Langston Hughes has made a huge impact on African American lives since the Harlem Renaissance and continues to today with his poetry and works. He was an influential leader in the Harlem Renaissance. The poem Harlem is very minimal but the impact and the deeper meaning it has is very powerful.”

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Langston Hughes - Biography. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved from

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