Langston Hughes Life of a Poet February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967 Social Studies Project February 26, 2013 By D. C. Fortenberry, Jr.
Langston Hughes • Langston Hughes was a very famous African-American poet. He was also a novelist, columnist, playwright and social activist. • He spoke out against slavery and racism in the form of award winning poems, stories and essays. He was a pioneer of a new literary art form called “jazz poetry.” • He was one of the most important poets during the Harlem Renaissance time period (1918-1937). • Hughes’ purpose in his writing was to artistically describe African-American culture, suffering, music, laughter, and language.
Ancestry • Both of Hughes’ paternal great-grandmothers were African-American. • Both of Hughes’ maternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners in Kentucky. • Hughes’ Maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson, was one of the first women to attend Oberlin college. She married Lewis Sheridan Leary, who died when he joined John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859. She later married Charles Henry Langston. The Langston family was very prominent and very politically active. • Caroline Langston was Langston Hughes’ mother.
Birth and Early Life • Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri to Carrie Mercer Langston and Nathaniel James Hughes. • Langston Hughes was named after his mother’s prominent family. • His father was a lawyerand his mother worked as a clerk in a courthouse and was a teacher.
Early Life • In an effort to escape the racism of America, Hughes’ father left his family and moved to Cuba and then Mexico in search of work. His parents eventually divorced. • During his parents’ separation and search for work, Hughes was raised primarily by his maternal grandparents - Mary and Charles H. Langston in Lawrence, Kansas.
Early Life: Education • Hughes spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, KS with his maternal grandmother, Mary Langston. His grandmother gave him a strong sense of pride in his racial heritage. • Hughes often felt alone when he was living with his grandmother, until he discovered the magic of books and poetry. • Hughes went to 1st grade in Topeka, Kansas and 2nd and 3rd grade at Pinckney School, a segregated school in Lawrence, KS.
Early Life: Education • After his grandmother died, Hughes went to live with family friends James and Mary Reed for two years in New York. He was very happy there. • Hughes attended Fourth through Sixth grade in New York City where schools were not segregated. • In 1915, Hughes moved to Lincoln, Illinois to live with his mother and new step-father. • The family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio where Hughes attended High School.
Early Writing • Hughes was named “class poet” in grammar school but he did not consider this an accomplishment, because he thought he was being stereotyped. • Hughes began writing poetry in the Eighth Grade. • In high school, Hughes wrote for the school newspaper. He also edited the yearbook. • Jazz poetry was a new art form, and Hughes wrote his first poem in this genre, “When Sue Wears Red,” while he was in High School.
Inspiration • Langston Hughes loved to hang out at jazz clubs for entertainment and inspiration. • An example of the inspiration of jazz in his writing, would be a famous poem he wrote titled “Montage of a Dream Deferred.” • While jazz was a major influence of his writing, he was also inspired to write poetry by other African-American poets, like Paul Lawrence Dunbar. He was also inspired by Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman. • It is no doubt that his relationships with his maternal grandmother and father shaped his writing and his life.
Early Adult Life • Hughes traveled to Mexico to visit his father in 1919 and again in 1920 after High School Graduation. • Hughes hoped to find support for a career as a writer. • Hughes’ father discouraged him from pursuing a writing career and encouraged him to do something more practical. His father promised financial support if long Hughes studied engineering. • Hughes enrolled in Columbia University to study engineering. He maintained a B+ average. • Hughes dropped out of Columbia University in 1922 because of racial prejudice.
Early Adult Life • After dropping out of college, Hughes traveled while working as a crewman in 1923 on the SS Malone. Traveled to West Africa and Europe, spending time in England and Paris. • In 1924 Hughes returned to the USA and lived with his mother in Washington, DC. He worked for a famous African-American historian by the name of Carter G. Woodsman. Hughes gave that job up to work as a busboy at the Wardman Hotel so that he could have more free time to write. • It was at the Wardman Hotel where Hughes met a poet by the name of VachelLindsay. Lindsay was impressed with Hughes’ work.
Early Career • In 1926, he wrote his first book of poetry called The Weary Blues and had it published by Alfred A. Knopf. • Three years later, he finished his education at Lincoln University – a historically Back University in Chester County, PA. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was one of his classmates. • In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, which won the HarmonGold Medal for literature, was published.
Career • Hughes wrote poetry, short stories, novels, plays, opera, children’s books, non-fiction, and essays. • He lived his dream to become a writer, and was able to support himself . • He did not marry, and had no children. • After graduating from college, he spent the rest of his adult life mostly in Harlen, NY. He did travel to the Caribbean and the Soviet Union and had a home in Westfield, NJ. • His primary political view, like many who were discriminated against, was supportive of Communism.
Career • His most famous poems: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” 1921 and “Montage of a Dream Deferred” 1951. • His most famous books: Not Without Laughter 1930 and the Ways of white Folks 1934. • His most famous play: “Mule Bone” (with writer Zora Neale Hurston) 1931. • Autobiography: The Big Sea 1940 and I Wonder as I Wander 1956.
Harlem Renaissance • The Harlem Renaissance was an African-American cultural movement. • Although it was centered in Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City, there were influences from Africa, the Caribbean, and Paris, France. • Literature, Art, Music, Theater and Politics were all involved. • The movement was one of racial pride, with the belief that creation of art and literature would uplift African-Americans. • Langston Hughes was a well known person in the Harlem Renaissance time period.
Late Adult Life • The amazing life of Langston Hughes came to an end on May 22, 1967 when he died from complications of prostate cancer in New York City. • In his memory, the city of New York made his residence on 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York a landmark and named it “Langston Hughes Place.”
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” -Langston Hughes
Sources • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BLbE5qXATWQ/TeOYwWaWEcI/AAAAAAAAFok/CU_ycwT8T7A/s1600/langston_hughes_2_e.jpg • http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/83 • http://www.continuinged.ku.edu/hughes/files_city/childhood.html • http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/langston_hughes/biography • http://pinckney.usd497.org/FAV1-0004EEB9/S07A2E244.5/OldPinckneySchWRoad2.jpg • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-HDcHEkGbQmY/T3nRpSmJxcI/AAAAAAAACi8/iM0nbOEevJc/s1600/LangstonHughes.jpg
More Sources • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ITNwatPZCI0/TUghvVuszYI/AAAAAAAAFzM/580OlmV3wTE/s1600/langston-hughes+poem.jpg • http://126.96.36.199/PHOTONEGIMG/screen/S360/s3600173.jpg • https://simontoncr0708.wikispaces.com/file/view/Langston_Hughes.png/34607213/223x293/Langston_Hughes.png • http://www1.assumption.edu/users/McClymer/bedfordprototype/toc/LangstonHuges.jpg • http://academic.reed.edu/english/courses/eng211/images/WearyBluesCover.jpg • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UKr9URsCkeE/TJecakLSEnI/AAAAAAAAL2c/svoXPrOdzlQ/s1600/IMG_2990.JPG