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Langston Hughes Biography Essay

773 words - 4 pages

1920’s Harlem was a time of contrast and contradiction, on one hand it was a hotbed of crime and vice and on the other it was a time of creativity and rebirth of literature and at this movement’s head was Langston Hughes. Hughes was a torchbearer for the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and musical movement that began in Harlem during the Roaring 20’s that promoted not only African-American culture in the mainstream, but gave African-Americans a sense of identity and pride.
Like most, the stories we hear as children leave lasting impacts in our heads and stay with us for lifetimes. Hughes was greatly influenced by the stories told by his grandmother as they instilled a sense of racial pride that would become a recurring theme in his works as well as become a staple in the Harlem Renaissance movement. During Hughes’ prominence in the 20’s, America was as prejudiced as ever and the African-American sense of pride and identity throughout the U.S. was at an all time low. Hughes took note of this and made it a common theme to put “the everyday black man” in most of his stories as well as using traditional “negro dialect” to better represent his African-American brethren. Also, at this time Hughes had major disagreements with members of the black middle class, such as W.E.B. DuBois for trying to assimilate and promote more european values and culture, whereas Hughes believed in holding fast to the traditions of the African-American people and avoid having their heritage be whitewashed by black intellectuals.
Of the few short stories penned by Hughes, one that stands out the most was his series of weekly writings from the Chicago Defender in the 1940’s about a middle aged black man and a narrator who would speak on a variety of issues in a bar. Described as a “offbeat Harlem character” (howard.edu). Jesse B. Semple, or “Simple” as he was affectionately called had a unique view on a variety of topics ranging from having “ugly contests” to integration and Jim Crow Laws. “ You can’t tell an ugly chick, be she ever so nice, is going to look pretty, not even if she goes to church every day and three times on Sunday ”(9). Hilarious quotables like this are only one of the reasons why Hughes’ column took off, the other...

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