For those of you who don’t know, today is Langston Hughes’ 113th Birthday!
Hughes is one of my all-time favorite writers, and so I wanted to make sure and dedicate some thoughts to him today.
Here are a few basics about Hughes:
- “From the 1920s on, Langston Hughes produced a vast body of literature that presented race relations to both black and white America as no writer had before, or really has since. His output was prolific, unmatched by any of his contemporaries: 16 volumes of poetry, two novels, three short story collections, 20 plays, novels, essays, historical works, musical shows.” (PBS)
- Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, MO, and died on May 22, 1967 in New York City.
- “Hughes attended Columbia’s School of Mines, Engineering, and Chemistry in 1921 at the behest of his father, who urged him to seek a practical career. Despite a B+ average, Hughes dropped out after one year, exchanging his slide rule for a pen.” (Columbia University)
- “By the time Hughes enrolled at Columbia University in New York, he had already launched his literary career with his poem ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ in the Crisis, edited by W E. B. Du Bois.” (The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 1997, via Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arnold Rampersad)
- “His major early influences were Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, as well as the black poets Paul Laurence Dunbar, a master of both dialect and standard verse, and Claude McKay, a radical socialist who also wrote accomplished lyric poetry.” (The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 1997, via Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arnold Rampersad)
- “Du Bose Heyward wrote in theNew York Herald Tribune in 1926:
‘Always intensely subjective, passionate, keenly sensitive to beauty and possessed of an unfaltering musical sense, Langston Hughes has given us a ‘first book’ that marks the opening of a career well worth watching.’“
(Poetry Foundation, “Langston Hughes”)
- “In 1951 Hughes published his most important volume of poetry in years. Montage of a Dream Deferred hearkened back to those early volumes in which the form and sound of the poetry are integrally related to its meaning. Early jazz had given way to a new form, bebop, and bebop’s discordant rhythms suffused Montage, mirroring the growing unrest and unease in urban black communities.” (PBS)
If you’re interested in learning more about Hughes, or in reading any of his articles, poetry, or prose, be sure to check out:
- Poetry Foundation, “Langston Hughes”
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, English Department, “Modern American Poetry: Hughes Life & Career“
- PBS: Langston Hughes – A Biography
- Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume I: 1902-1941, I, Too, Sing America
- Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume II: 1914-1967, I Dream a World
Some of Hughes’ books:
- Not Without Laughter
- Collected Poems
- I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiography
- First Book of Jazz
- Collected Short Stories