Langston Hughes

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Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri into an abolitionist family. He was
the grandson of Charles Henry Langston. His brother was John Mercer Langston,
who was the the first Black American to be elected to public office in 1855.

Hughes attended Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, but began writing poetry
in the eighth grade, and was selected as Class Poet. His father didn\'t think he
would be able to make a living as a writer. His father paid his tuition to

Columbia University for him to study engineering. After a short time, Langston
dropped out of the program with a B+ average, all the while he continued writing
poetry. His first published poem was also one of his most famous, "The

Negro Speaks of Rivers", and it appeared in Brownie\'s Book. Later, his
poems, short plays, essays, and short stories appeared in the NAACP publication

Crisis Magazine and in Opportunity Magazine and other publications. One of

Hughes\' finest essays appeared in the Nation in 1926, entitled "The Negro

Artist and the Racial Mountain". It spoke of Black writers and poets,
"who would surrender racial pride in the name of a 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 aren\'t, 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 displeasure doesn\'t matter either. We build our temples for
tomorrow, as strong as we know how and we stand on the top of the mountain, free
within ourselves." In 1923, Hughes traveled abroad on a freighter to the

Senegal, Nigeria, the Cameroons, Belgium Congo, Angola, and Guinea in Africa,
and later to Italy and France, Russia and Spain. One of his favorite pastimes
whether abroad or in Washington, D.C. or Harlem, New York was sitting in the
clubs listening to blues, jazz and writing poetry. Through these experiences a
new rhythm emerged in his writing, and a series of poems such as "The Weary

Blues" were penned. He returned to Harlem, in 1924, the period known as the

Harlem Renaissance. During this period, his work was frequently published and
his writing flourished. In 1925 he moved to Washington, D.C., still spending
more time in blues and jazz clubs. He said, "I tried to write poems like
the songs they sang on Seventh Street...(these songs) had the pulse beat of the
people who keep on going." At this same time, Hughes accepted a job with

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, editor of the Journal of Negro Life and History and
founder of Black History Week in 1926. He returned to his beloved Harlem later
that year. Langston Hughes received a scholarship to Lincoln University, in

Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. degree in 1929. In 1943, he was awarded
an honorary Litt.D by his alma mater; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935 and a

Rosenwald Fellowship in 1940. Based on a conversation with a man he knew in a

Harlem bar, he created a character know as My Simple Minded Friend in a series
of essays in the form of a dialogue. In 1950, he named this lovable character

Jess B. Simple, and authored a series of books on him. Langston Hughes was a
prolific writer. In the forty-odd years between his first book in 1926 and his
death in 1967, he devoted his life to writing and lecturing. He wrote sixteen
books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of
"editorial" and "documentary" fiction, twenty plays,
children\'s poetry, musicals and operas, three autobiographies, a dozen radio and
television scripts and dozens of magazine articles. In addition, he edited seven
anthologies. The long and distinguished list of Hughes\' works includes: Not

Without Laughter (1930); The Big Sea (1940); I Wonder As I Wander" (1956),
his autobiographies. His collections of poetry include: The Weary Blues (1926);

The Negro Mother and other Dramatic Recitations (1931); The Dream Keeper (1932);

Shakespeare In Harlem (1942); Fields of Wonder (1947); One Way Ticket (1947);

The First Book of Jazz (1955); Tambourines To Glory (1958); and Selected Poems
(1959); The Best of Simple (1961). He edited several anthologies in an attempt
to popularize black authors and their works. Some of these are:

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Topics Related to Langston Hughes

Harlem Renaissance, Jazz poetry, Guggenheim Fellows, African-American poetry, African-American literature, Langston Hughes, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, The Weary Blues, Pierrot, Lewis Grandison Alexander

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