By: Savannah Smith
On February 1, 1902, James Mercer Langston Hughes was born. When he was young his parents divorced and his father Mexico. So his grandmother raised him until he was 13 years-old, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Hughes began writing poetry in Lincoln. He spent a year in Mexico followed by a year at Columbia University in New York, after graduating from high school. He held odd jobs such as assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy. While also travelling to Africa and Europe working as a seaman.
About his work
November of 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. His first book of poetry,The Weary Blues, and was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. Also while finishing his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania 3 years later. His first novel (1930), Not Without Laughter, also being published by Alfred A. Knopf, won the Harmon gold medal for literature.
Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman, as the primary influences, particularly known for his insightful and colorful portrayals of black life in the U.S. from 20's-60's. Wrote novels, short stories and plays,as well as poetry. He is also known for his engagement with the universe of jazz and the influence his writing had on it.
During his writing life
Late 1940's, Hughes contributed the lyrics for The Broadway musical Street Scene, which featured Kurt Weill's music. Successes of the musical would earn Hughes money, enough that allowed him to buy him his own house in Harlem. He also taught creative writing at Atl. University and guest lectured at a college in Chicago for a few months. Next two decades, Hughes would continue the prolific output.
Death and Legacy
22 May of 1967, Langston Hughes had died from complications to prostate cancer. Tribute to his poetry. The funeral contained little in the spoken eulogy. but was filled with jazz and blues music. The inscription marking the spot features a line from one of his lines from 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers," which reads, "My soul has grown deep like the rivers."