“I dream a world where… love will bless the earth and peace its paths adorn.” -- Langston Hughes
An artist in the truest sense of the word, Langston Hughes was quite simply a literary genius. Born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was a speaker for the simple man, a man who had no wealth or power but still had soundness of heart and virtues abundant. He was the one of the earliest innovators of the then new art form known as Jazz Poetry alongside with e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Hughes is also known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance (Francis).
Both of Hughes’ paternal great-grandmothers were African American and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners of Kentucky. Langston Hughes was the second child of schoolteacher Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes. He grew up in a series of Midwestern small towns in Missouri. Hughes's father left his family and later divorced Carrie, going to Cuba, and then Mexico, seeking to escape the enduring racism in the United States (“Biography of Langston Hughes”). His grandmother raised him until he was thirteen (as his father had left him and his mother at a young age) when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband. They, later, settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Hughes started writing poetry when he was in Lincoln (“Langston Hughes”).
After graduating from high school, Hughes spent a year in Mexico followed by a year at Columbia University in New York City. During this time, he acquired menial jobs but, when he moved to Washington D.C. in November 1924, Alfred A. Knopf, published his first book The Weary Blues. Hughes finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature (“Langston Hughes”).
Hughes identified as unashamedly black at a time when blackness was démodé. He stressed the theme of "black is beautiful" as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths. His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of the general American experience (Patterson).
His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working-class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Permeating his work is pride in the African-American identity and its diverse culture. "My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind,” Hughes once said. He confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded African America’s image of itself; a “people’s poet” who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality. (Rampersad). His poems are about music,...