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Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father was
James Nathaniel and his mother was Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes. His
grandfather was Charles Langston, an Ohio abolitionist. As a young boy he lived
in Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Lawrence, Kansas, Mexico City, Topeka,
Kansas, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Kansas City, Kansas. In 1914 his parents
divorced and he, his mother, and his stepfather moved to Lincoln, Illinois. In
high school back in Cleveland, he was elected class poet, and editor of the
senior class yearbook. He taught English to some families in Mexico in 1921 and
also published his first prose piece, “Mexican Games”(Davis). In an
excerpt from an article about Langston Hughes in Encarta 97, it says that he was
discovered in 1925, while he was working as a busboy in a restaurant in
Washington, D.C., when he accidentally left three of his poems next to the plate
of Vachel Lindsay, an American poet. She helped him ge! t publicity for his
works and she got him seriously started in writing(Encarta). In an article about
Langston Hughes in The Reference Library of Black America it talks about all the
places in the world that Hughes has traveled. He probably used much of the
information of the cultures of other countries to write. Hughes traveled all
over the world as a seaman. He went to the Soviet Union, Haiti, Japan, Spain,
Genoa, France, and other parts of Europe. Hughes was an author, anthologist,
librettist, songwriter, columnist, translator, founder of theaters, and a
poetical innovator in jazz technology. Hughes liked to write in many genres such
as prose, comedy, drama, fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and TV and radio
scripts. Langston Hughes was the father of the Harlem Renaissance and made many
contributions on the behalf of African- Americans which led to the end of
discrimination and segregation(Davis). Hughes was an important figure in the
Harlem Renaissance because he was one of the most talented and famous black
writers in his time. The Harlem Renaissance was the black movement during the
1920’s. Many African-Americans got famous during this time and more people in
the United States and the world got to see another side of African- Americans
which had never been seen before. People saw that blacks could do things the
same or better than white people and many, but certainly not all, barriers like
segregation were decreased noticeably. He wrote numerous protest poems in which
he used irony to get his points across to the reader. Hughes was influenced by
Jean Toomer, another black writer and poet. It seemed as though Hughes used his
poetry as a way to combat against the ongoing struggle that African- Americans
still face today. Many believe that his best poems were inspired by the city of
Harlem. He was even called the “Poet-Laureate of Harlem” because of
his unders! tanding for the city. Hughes best volume of Harlem works is Montage
of a Dream Deferred. Hughes was the author who during the Harlem Renaissance
used much of the Black culture in his work. He began to use the Blues, Ballad
form, dance rhythms, folk speech, and Jazz in his poetry. Hughes had success in
many different fields of writing. His best drama, “Mulatto,” a play,
was performed on Broadway 373 times in 1935. In his best comedy, “Little
Ham”(1935), again he uses themes from Harlem. Hughes’s best fiction is in
his “Simple” series. In his lifetime, Langston Hughes won several
awards. In 1925 he won his first prize for poetry in the Opportunity contest and
third prize for essay in the Crisis contest. In 1926 he published his first
volume of poems, The Weary Blues. In 1953 he won the Anisfeld-Wolfe Award.

Hughes also won the Witter Bynner Prize for undergraduate poetry while attending
Lincoln University. Even West Indian poets, such as Leopold Senghor, saw Hughes
as the father of the Negritude Movement(Davis). One of Hughes’s works mentioned
in the book, The Langston Hughes Reader, is entitled, My Most Humiliating Jim
Crow Experience. This short story of his is a true story of his childhood. It
shows all the themes he is fighting for and the things he is fighting against.

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What happens is that Hughes and a white friend of his go into a restaurant. His
friend gets his food, but when he gets his, the white clerk charges him six
times what the food is worth. He argued with the clerk and finally left with his
friend. Years later a group of white and black workers walked in and demanded to
be served. They did get their meals and ended the segregation in that particular
restaurant. This shows how prejudice was in the early 1900’s. Even during the
start of the Harlem Renaissance people still hated African-Americans. That story
shows why Hughes wrote so many protest poems and became so involved in the black
movement(Davis). Langston Hughes was the father of the Harlem Renaissance and
made many contributions on the behalf of African-Americans which led to the end
of discrimination and segregation. Hughes was an important figure in the Harlem
Renaissance because he was one of the most talented and famous black writers in
his time. Even West Indian poets saw Hughes as the father of the Negritude
Movement. It seemed as though Hughes used his writing as his weapon to combat
against the ongoing struggle that African-Americans still face today. If it were
not for Langston Hughes, African-Americans would not have their current
political and social positions today, even though they are not equal to those
that white Americans have.


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