James Langston Hughes
Poetry of the People.
Langston Hughes was an African American (mixed like me, actually!) poet.
He started writing poetry in the 8th grade, his class called him the class poet. Makes sense, right? Laugh out Loud. His father didn't really think that Hughes could make a living off of writing, and encouraged him to pursue a more practical career. He paid his son's tuition to Columbia University on the grounds that he study engineering. After a short period of time, Langston dropped the class with a B average. Throughout this whole time he still continued to write poetry!
His first published poem was also one of his most famous, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", and it appeared in Brownie's Book.
One of Hughes' finest essays appeared in the Nation in 1926, entitled "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain". It spoke of Black writer and poets, "who would surrender racial pride in the name of false integration," where a talented Black writer would prefer to be considered a poet, not a Black poet, which to Hughes meant he subconsciously wanted to write like a white poet. Hughes argued, "no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself." He wrote in this essay, "We younger Negro artists now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they're not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.... If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their unpleasment doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, as strong as we know how and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves,"
Langston loved to hear the sweet blues in jazz clubs, whether it be in Washington, D.C., or in Harlem, New York!
February 1, 1902 - May 22, 1967
Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967. His body rest in Harlem, New York on 20 East 127th Street. This place has been given landmarks status by the New York City Preservation Commission. His block of East 127th Street was renamed "Langston Hughes Place".