Langston Hughes, Poet and Playwright


Langston HughesJames Langston Mercer Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri and died on May 22, 1967, in New York, New York.

His first successful poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was published in The Crisis magazine in 1920 and met with high praise.  In 1921 he enrolled in Columbia University where he studied briefly, and during which time became a part of Harlem’s burgeoning cultural movement, commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes later dropped out of school, traveled around the world doing various jobs.  In 1925, he met Vachel Lindsay, showed some of his poems to Lindsay who was impressed enough to use his connections to promote Hughes’s poetry and bring it to a wider audience.

In 1940, at 28 years old, Hughes published his autobiography, The Big Sea.  Around that same time he began contributing to a column in the Chicago Defender, for which he created a comic character name Jesse B. Semple, better known as “Simple,” a black Everyman that Hughes used to further explore urban, working-class black themes, and to address racial issues.  The columns were highly successful and “Simple” would later be the focus of sever of Hughes’s books and plays.The Collected Poetry of Langston Hughes

From the 1940s until his death, Hughes continued prolific output of poetry, plays and other works.  On May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes died from complications of prostate cancer.  A tribute to his poetry, his funeral contained little in the way of spoken eulogy, but was filled with jazz and blues music.  Hughes’s ashes were interred beneath the entrance of the Arthur Schomberg Center for Research in Black culture in Harlem.  The inscription marking the spot features a line from Hughes’s poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”  It reads: “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

His work continues to be published and translated throughout the world.

For more information go to: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/83

Suzanne Bogue

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