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James Langston Hughes: (1902-1967) Poet

A central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen.† He then moved to Lincoln, Illinois to live with his mother and her husband, where Hughes began writing poetry.

Hughes graduated from Central High School in Cleveland in 1920, and moved to New York City in 1921.

In 1924 Hughes moved to Washington, D.C. and published his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues. †In 1930 he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and published his first novel, Not Without Laughter, which won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

Hughes is particularly known for his insightful colorful portrayals of black life in America between the 1920ís and 1960ís. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, and poetry.† His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.† Langston Hughes died of prostate cancer on May 22, 1967 in New York

Text from Academy of American Poets,


Further Reading:

The Academy of American Poets- entry on Langston Hughes

Cary Nelson, An Online Journal and Multimedia Companion to the Anthology of Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2000)- entry on Langston Hughes

Library of Congress, America's Story from America's Library, Langston Hughes

The Red Hot Jazz Archive†