Langston Hughes

By Ada Messer

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Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Mini Bio: Langston Hughes

About him

Langston Hughes (1902-1967), was an African American author best known for his poetry. Hughes experimented with the poetic meter (rhythm) by using the rhythm of jazz and blues music in his verses.

Hughes was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a period of creativity among black artists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His first volume, The Weary Blues (1926), introduced his poetic style of short, rhythmic lines with a musical quality. Hughes’s writings addressed race pride, black culture, political consciousness, and working class urban life. One of Hughes’s most popular works was a series of fictional sketches about a black man called Jesse B. Semple, also known as “Simple.” This character was a “simple” or average workingman who expressed his opinions about life, race, and current events. Beginning in the 1940’s, Hughes wrote sketches, books, and plays about Simple for 20 years.

Hughes wrote or edited more than 50 books. Examples include the novel Not Without Laughter (1930); the short-story collection The Ways of White Folks (1934); the hit Broadway play Mulatto (1935); and two autobiographies, The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder As I Wander (1956). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes was published in 1994, after his death.

As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!