Life and Work of Langston Hughes

2055 Words9 Pages
Life and Work of Langston Hughes

James Mercer Langston Hughes, an African American, became a well known poet, novelist, journalist, and playwright. During the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes gained fame and respect for his ability to express the Black American experiences in his works. He was one of the most original and versatile of the twentieth century black writers. Influenced by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carl Dandburg, and his grandmother Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes, Langston Hughes began writing creatively while he was still a young boy (Barksdale 14).

Born in Joplin Missouri, Langston Hughes lived with both his parents until they separated. Because his father immigrated to Mexico and his mother was often away, Hughes was brought up in Lawrence, Kansas, by his grandmother Mary Langston. His grandmother embedded Hughes? sense of dedication. Her second husband (Hughes's grandfather) was a fierce abolitionist. She helped Hughes to see the cause of social justice. Although she told him wonderful stories about Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth and took him to hear Booker T. Washington, Hughes did not get all the attention he needed. Furthermore, Hughes felt hurt by both his parents and was unable to understand why he was not allowed to live with either of them. These feelings of rejection caused him to grow up very insecure and unsure of himself. Because his childhood was a lonely time, he fought the loneliness by reading different books.

?Books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books

and the wonderful world in books where if people suffered, they suffered

in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas? (Hughes 16).

Langston Hughes began writing in high school, and even at this early age was developing the voice that made him famous. High school teacher and classmates recognized Hughes writing talent, and Hughes had his first pieces of verse published in the Central High Monthly, a sophisticated school magazine. An English teacher introduced him to poets such as Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman, and these became Hughes?s earliest influences.

In 1921 he entered Columbia University, but left after an unhappy year. Langston was very fascinated and influenced by Harlem?s people and the life itself, there. The Big Sea, the first volume of his autobiography, provided ?such a crucial first person account of the era? that much of what we know about the Harlem Renaissance we know from Hughes?
Open Document