James Langston Hughes
African-American Poet, Author, Social Activist
As a poet and writer I felt it was fitting that I dedicate my Black History Month posts to my favorite African-American writers, poets, and authors.
James Langston Hughes born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. As a result of his parents divorce his grandmother raised him. At the age of thirteen, Hughes moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her new husband. It was in Lincoln that he began writing poetry. After graduating from high school, he spent a year in Mexico with his father followed by a year at Columbia University in New York City. Over the years he held several odd jobs including assistant cook, laundry worker and busboy. Langston Hughes also traveled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1927 and in 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature.
Hughes is particularly known for his colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing creating what is known as jazz poetry, today known as spoken word.
Hughes stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism devoid of self-hate that united people of African descent and Africa across the globe and encouraged pride in their diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic.
On May 22, 1967 Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer.
Here is one of my favorite poems from Hughes.
I, Too –James Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” Then.
Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
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