Langston Hughes biography :
Langston Hughes was born James Langston Hughes on
1st February 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father, James Nathaniel
Hughes, was a shopkeeper, and his mother was a school teacher. His
parents separated and Hughes, together with his mother, moved
constantly in search for work. They eventually settled in Cleveland
Ohio. Carl Sandbury, a poet whose writings he became familiar with
during his youth, influenced him deeply.
Hughes started writing poetry when he was in the eighth grade. He
graduated from the Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio and wanted
to pursue poetry writing but his father discouraged him. Instead he
encouraged Hughes to pursue engineering at Columbia University.
Hughes, however, dropped out of Columbia with a B+ average. He
continued to write and his first published work, “The Negro Speaks of
Rivers” was released in the African-American journal, “Crisis” in
1921. He published his first play, “The Golden Piece” also in 1921.
In 1923, Hughes traveled extensively to Africa and Europe and in his
free time, he would frequent jazz clubs. The experience he gathered
coupled with the rhythm of jazz came out in his writings, such as
those seen in “The Weary Blues”. Most of Langston Hughes’ poems have
already been set to music as these literary works are: “meant to be
read aloud, crooned, shouted and sung”.
In 1929, Hughes received his B.A. degree from the Lincoln University
in Pennsylvania. In 1943, the honorary Lit. D was awarded to him. In
1935 and 1940 he received the Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rosenwald
Fellowship respectively. Langston Hughes continued to write, and
conducted lectures until he succumbed to cancer on May 22, 1967.
Between 1926 and 1967, the year of his death, Hughes published more
than 35 books. He wrote books of poems, novels, short stories, plays,
and even musicals and operas.
East 127th Street in New York, the block where Langston Hughes used to
live, has been renamed “Langston Hughes Place”