James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that “the Negro was in vogue”, which was later paraphrased as “when Harlem was in vogue.
Like many African-Americans, Hughes had a complex ancestry. Both of Hughes’ paternal great-grandmothers were enslaved Africans, and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners in Kentucky. According to Hughes, one of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller of Henry County, said to be a relative of statesman Henry Clay.
Hughes had a very poor relationship with his father, whom he seldom saw when a child. He lived briefly with his father in Mexico in 1919. Upon graduating from high school in June 1920, Hughes returned to Mexico to live with his father, hoping to convince him to support his plan to attend Columbia University.Hughes later said that, prior to arriving in Mexico, “I had been thinking about my father and his strange dislike of his own people.
Hughes worked at various odd jobs, before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe. In Europe, Hughes left the S.S. Malone for a temporary stay in Paris
Some academics and biographers believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, as did Walt Whitman, who, Hughes said, influenced his poetry. Hughes’s story “Blessed Assurance” deals with a father’s anger over his son’s effeminacy and “queerness”.
On May 22, 1967, Hughes died in the Stuyvesant Polyclinic in New York City at the age of 66 from complications after abdominal surgery related to prostate cancer. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.
Langston Hughes – Short Biography
|Birth Name||Langston Hughes|
|Born||February 1, 1901|
|Birth Place||Joplin, Missouri, U.S.|
|Occupation||Poet, columnist, dramatist, essayist, novelist|
|Parents||James Nathaniel Hughes|
|Alma mater||Lincoln University
|Notable Awards||Spingarn Medal
William E. Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement Among Negroes, Langston Hughes Medal
|Books||Harlem, Montage of a Dream Deferred, The Weary Blues, MORE|
|Died||May 22, 1967 (aged 66)|
|Place of death||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Cause of death||Prostate cancer|
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