Author: Langston Hughes

Langstoon Hughes, photo by Jack Delano, 1942, Library of Congress

Celebrated African American poet and short story writer Langston Hughes (1902–67) was born in Joplin, Missouri, but moved often in his youth before settling in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended high school. He began writing as a teenager and first published his poetry in his school newspaper. Hughes attended Columbia University but left before graduating, instead immersing himself in the Harlem Renaissance, a blossoming of African American art, writing, and thought in the 1920s and 1930s centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Hughes’s writing helped to develop the jazz style of poetry, drawing on the improvisation and lyricism of the music, and much of his poetry also explored themes of racial and social inequality. 

Freedom’s Plow

Langston Hughes

The Union victory in the Civil War and the Civil War amendments to the Constitution permanently ended slavery in the United States. But the vindication of the idea of human equality and the achievement of civil rights for all Americans remained an unrealized goal for more than the next hundred years.

I, Too, Sing America

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ writing helped to develop the jazz style of poetry, drawing on the improvisation and lyricism of the music, and much of his poetry explored themes of racial and social inequality.

Lincoln Monument: Washington

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes (1902–67), widely known as a leader of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, brought the African American struggle for civil rights into the public sphere with his novels, plays, and poems. This poem, published in 1926, pays tribute to Lincoln at a time when Washington, DC was still a segregated city.

One Friday Morning

Langston Hughes

Even in the not-officially-segregated North, there was often a wide gulf between the color-blindness of the American dream and the racial discrimination in daily life, which, early in their lives, crushed the aspirations and dashed the hopes of promising young black Americans. In this story (published in 1941), celebrated poet, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes (1902–67) describes such an incident in the life of a talented and proud American high school student, Nancy Lee Johnson, whose family had moved from the Deep South to the North so that she might have better opportunities.

Those Who Have No Turkey

Langston Hughes

This story by celebrated African American poet and short-story writer Langston Hughes (1902–67), written in 1918 when he was still in high school, raises the disturbing possibility that prosperity may in fact be the enemy of gratitude and thanksgiving.