Langston Hughes – American author
Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, playwright and columnist. He is known as one of the leading and influential writers of the cultural movement Harlem Renaissance and the discoverer of “jazz poetry.” Hughes left an extremely rich legacy in many different genres: poetry, romance, autobiographical prose, stories, plays. He collaborated with newspapers, often publishing there a series of satirical essays in which the main character was black citizen Simple.
James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. The boy was the second child into a poor family of school teacher Caroline Mercer Langston and her husband James Nathaniel Hughes. From parents Langston inherited Negro, European and even Indian roots. The boy grew up in the ghetto.
Hughes was named after his father and great-uncle, John Mercer Langston, who in 1888 became the first black American to be elected to the US Congress from Virginia. His maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson, had Negro, French, English, and Indian blood. She was one of the first women to study at Oberlin College. Mary Patterson married Lewis Sheridan Leary, who also had mixed blood. Leary joined the people of John Brown during a raid on Harpers Ferry, in which he was seriously injured and died in 1859.
In 1869, Mary Patterson got married for the second time; her husband was Charles Henry Langston, whose ancestors were Africans, Indians and Europeans. He and his younger brother John Mercer Langston were supporters of abolitionism, and they were leaders of the Ohio Society Against Slavery in 1958.
Subsequently, Charles Langston moved to Kansas, where he worked as a teacher and actively participated in the struggle for the rights of black people in the United States. Charles and Mary had a daughter, Caroline Mercer Lengston, mother of Langston Hughes.
The Hughes’ marriage broke up, and his father left the family. He traveled to Cuba, and then to Mexico in search of peace from the intolerable racism that prevailed in the United States. After his parents divorced, the boy lived in Kansas, where his grandmother Mary Patterson Langston brought him up. After the death of his grandmother, he had to live for two years with friends of the family, James and Mary Reed. Because of the instability in those years, his childhood was not happy. Later, Hughes resided in Lincoln, Illinois with his mother Kerry. Soon the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and Hughes went to high school. There he started writing poetry. His first poem When Sue Wears Red was written when he was a schoolboy. It was during this period of his life that Hughes began to say that the American poets Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Carl Sandberg had the greatest influence on his works.
In 1921 Hughes entered Columbia University in New York City. He was so unhappy that he left school after a year. Then he took time to explore Harlem, a mostly black New York City neighborhood. There he met other people interested in writing about the experiences of African Americans.
For a long time, Hughes did not have a permanent job. In 1923, he joined the crew aboard SS Malone, where he spent 6 months traveling from West Africa to Europe. Langston decided to stay in Europe when SS Malone made a temporary stop in Paris.
In 1925 the young man was working as a busboy at a hotel in Washington, D.C. He showed his poems to U.S. poet Vachel Lindsay who helped call the country’s attention to Hughes’s work. Then the young writer received a scholarship to attend Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania. His first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published in 1926. By the way, Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) is his most famous work.
His work, some of which was translated into a dozen languages, earned him an international reputation unlike any other African American writer except Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Forty-seven volumes bear Hughes’s name.
Langston Hughes died on May 22, 1967 in New York.