Langston Hughes

American Poet

Life Story

Langston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1902 in Joplin Missouri. He was born to James Nathaniel Hughes and Caroline Mercer Langston. Caroline Mercer Langston came from a family of respected activists and black educators. John Mercer Langston, Langston Hughes's great uncle on his mother’s side, was the first black Congressman for Virginia.

Hughes's parents split when he was very young. His father moved to Cuba and then Mexico after the divorce. His mother was in search for work and traveled around lots. Due to this Hughes went to live with his grandmother. His grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, would often hold Hughes on her lap and tell him stories about abolitionists and courageous slaves that struggled for their freedom. These tails impressed Hughes, he wrote “Through my grandmother's stories always life moved, moved heroically toward an end. Nobody ever cried in my grandmother's stories. They worked, or schemed, or fought. But no crying” about the many stories his grandmother told him.

Langston Hughes reads The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Influence on America

Langston Hughes was an influence on the Harlem Renaissance, which was the African American artistic movement in the 1920's. His writing was influenced by his life in Harlem, New York. Hughes works helped shape American literature and politics. He had a strong sense of racial pride. Through his poetry he promoted equality, and celebrated African American humor and culture.

Writing Style

Langston Hughes, during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s was a very influential figure. The Negro Speaks of Rivers was his first published poem, published in Crisis magazine in 1921. He used his poetry as a cultural protest in social and political situations. Hughes wrote a drama Mulatto, it was performed 373 times on Broadway, he also wrote over 50 books. His poetry is his best known work mostly using black folk rhythms and jazz in his work. His work was very different to the traditions of black culture and most classical forms of poetry.

Langston Hughes VS Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928. She is an American poet, actress and an important figure In the American Civil Right Movement. As a child Angelou’s parent split up and her older brother and she went to live with their grandmother, much like Langston Hughes. Though she did move back in with her mother, but due to bad circumstances that happened in her mother’s home she later moved back to her grandmother’s. Her childhood was very ruff moving back and forth between her mother, grandmother, and occasionally her father, this made it a struggle for her to mature properly. Her poetry shows much emotion and some of her early work is very influenced by her bad childhood, though her later work was more on the protest side, fighting for equal rights. Now Angelou continues to make public appearances and some of her more recent poems show hope and happiness.

Maya Angelou: My Childhood