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Langston Hughes and His Jazz Shoes


Life and Times
Our Picks!
Literary Theory Analysis
A Tough One
Poetic Social Commentary
Listen to Poems
Patterns and Themes
The Critics
Langston vs. Barack
Works Cited

Langston's Life


James Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri.  His parents divorced when he was a little boy, and his father moved to Mexico.  His grandmother cared for him until he was thirteen years old, when he moved to Illinois with his mother.


 Soon afterward the family traveled on to Ohio.  He began writing poetry right before he started attending high school in Cleveland, Ohio.  After high school, Hughes went to Mexico and his father convinced him to study engineering at Columbia University.  He worked many odd jobs while attending school.


In 1923, Hughes toured many countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia.  But no matter where he was in the world, his favorite pastimes were listening to Jazz and blues and writing poetry. 


 Hughes eventually dropped out of school with a B+ average to pursue a career in poetry.  Soon after, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was his first published poem. 


He enjoyed his part of the Harlem Renaissance in 1924, and in 1925 he had already moved on to Washington DC.  However, he couldn’t get enough of Harlem, and he returned in 1926 to work with Dr. Carter Woodson, the founder of Black History Week. 


He received a scholarship, so he moved on to Pennsylvania to attend Lincoln University. He received a B.A. degree in 1929.  Throughout his career he wrote many poems and essays about black artists and racial difficulties.  His work was used by the NAACP and appeared in such works as The Nation. 


He was awarded an honorary Lit. D by his alma mater in 1943.  In 1935 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1940 he was honored with a Rosenwald Fellowship.


In 1950, Langston Hughes created series of essays in the form of dialogue with a character named Jess B. Simple.  The Essays were entitled, “My Simple Minded Friend”.


During his life time, Hughes wrote sisteen books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of editorial and documentary fiction, twenty plays, children’s poetry, musicals and operas, three autobiographies, a dozen radio and TV scripts and dozens of magazine articles. 


Langston Hughes owes his death on May 22, 1967 to prostate cancer.  He never married, nor had any children.  His home in Harlem, New York has been turned into a landmark by the New York City Preservation Commission.  The block he lived on was renamed “Langston Hughes Place.