Hughes, Langston

Hughes, Langston (1902 - 1967)


Born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, Langston Hughes grew up and was educated in Lawrence, Kansas, and Cleveland, Ohio. He briefly enrolled in Columbia University in New York in 1921, the year that he published "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in Crisis, a journal which was edited by W. E. B. Du Bois. In 1923-24 Hughes worked as a seaman on trips to Africa and Europe. In April 1925 his poem "The Weary Blues" won first prize in a contest sponsored by Opportunity magazine. This notice led Alfred A. Knopf to bring out Hughes' first book of poems, The Weary Blues collection, in January 1926. It established him as a leading member of the Harlem Renaissance. In a life not without political turmoil, Hughes became a prolific playwright, short-story writer, opera composer, novelist, biographer, editor, and historian. Among his books of poems are Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927), The Dream Keeper (1932), Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), Fields of Wonder (1947), One-way Ticket (1949), Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951), Ask your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (1961), and The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times (1967). Following his visit to Russia in the 1930s, Hughes was frequently attacked for supposed communist sympathies. In 1953 he testified before Senator Joseph McCarthy's subcommittee on subversive activities in 1953 but escaped censure. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1960, the highest honour awarded by the NAACP, and in 1961 was made a member in the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He wrote two autobiographies, The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956). Always a supporter of other writers, from imprisoned Ezra Pound to Alice Walker, Hughes edited several important anthologies of black poetry: with Arna Bontemps, The Poetry of the Negro 1746-1949 (1949), and Poems from Black Africa, Ethiopia, and Other Countries (1963). Alfred A. Knopf brought out his Selected Poems in 1959. He died on May 22, 1967, in Manhattan.

  • The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, ed. Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel (New York: Random House, 1994; PS 3515 U274 A17 Robarts Library)
  • Mikolyzk, Thomas A., comp. Langston Hughes: a bio-bibliography (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990; Z 8423.3 M53 1990 Robarts Library)
  • Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986-88; PS 3515 U274Z698 Robarts Library)
Given Name
Family Name
Birth Date
February 1, 1902
Death Date
May 22, 1967
Literary Period
Literary Movement
Cause of Death