59. The Harlem Renaissance Series: Langston Hughes

Posted: December 1, 2009 in African American, Black History, Black Pride, Culture
Tags: , ,

There are several critical writers that helped to birth and define the era known to us as the Black Literary Renaissance.  In no particular order, the literary giants of that era included: 1) Zora Neale Hurston; 2) Langston Hughes; 3) Jesse Redman Fauset; 4) Walter White; 5) Claude McKay; and 6) Rudolph Fisher. Today’s feature highlights the legendary Langston Hughes.

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967)

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902. However, he lived with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas until he was thirteen when his grandmother died. He went to live with his mother in Lincoln, Illinois. This is where Hughes wrote his first verse and was named class poet of his eighth grade class.

Although his family constantly relocated, Langston remained in Lincoln, Illinois to finish high school. During that time, his writing talent was recognized by his high school teachers and classmates. As a result, Hughes had his first pieces of verse published in the school’s sophisticated magazine. Soon he was on the staff and publishing in the magazine regularly. An English teacher introduced him to poets such as Carl Sandburg and Walk Whitman, and these became Hughes’ earliest influences.

Langston Hughes moved to New York to attend Columbia University for college. Hughes only spent one year at Columbia before being swept into the exciting and newly formed Harlem environment. Here Langston Hughes flourished and being amongst the jazz and blues helped to influence Hughes’ lyrical style. Immediately, Hughes became an integral part of the arts scene in Harlem, so much so that in many ways he defined the spirit of the age, from a literary point of view.

He got to know other writers of the time such as Countee Cullen, Claude McCay, W.E.B. DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson. When his poem “The Weary Blues” won first prize in the poetry section of the 1925 Opportunity magazine literary contest, Hughes’s literary career was launched.

His first volume of poetry, also titled The Weary Blues, appeared in 1926. Setting himself apart from other writers, jazz and blues allowed him to experiment with a very rhythmic free verse. Hughes’s primary writing was for the theater. His drama called, “Mulatto” – became the longest running Broadway play written by an African American until Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (1958). Langston Hughes died in 1967.

  1. black is beautiful says:

    Keep’em coming doc!

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