Langston Hughes: A Pioneer for Black Writers

Categories: Literature

Langston Hughes,(1902-1967), was a great American writer He is mostly known for his use of black folk rhythms and jazz in his poetry. He was born in Joplin, Missouri, and educated at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Hughes published his first poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, in Crisis magazine in 1921. He studied at Columbia University from 1921 to 1922 before serving on a ship to Africa. He then worked for a time in Paris. After his return to the United States, he worked as a busboy in Washington, D.

C. There, in 1925, his literary skills were discovered after he left three of his poems beside the plate of an American poet named Vachel Lindsay, who recognized Hughes’s abilities and helped to publicize Hughes’s work.

Hughes wrote in many genres, but he is best known for his poetry, in which he disregarded classical forms in favor of musical rhythms and the oral and improvisatory traditions of black culture. In the 1920s he was a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance (and was referred to as the Poet Laureate of Harlem (New York City).

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His innovations in form and voice influenced many black writers. Hughes also wrote the drama Mulatto (1935), which was performed professionally on Broadway, 373 times. Hughes traveled to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Haiti, and Japan. He served as the Madrid correspondent for a Baltimore, Maryland, newspaper during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Beginning in the 1930s, Hughes was active in social and political causes and used much of his poetry as a vehicle for social protest.

In the 1940s, first for the Chicago Defender and later for the New York Post, Hughes wrote a newspaper column in the voice of the character Simple (also called Jesse B. Semple), who expressed the thoughts of young black Americans. Simple’s plain speech, humor, and use of dialect belied his wisdom and common sense. The character became famous and later figured in many of Hughes’s short stories.

Hughes wrote more than 50 books. His works include the poetry volumes Weary Blues (1926), The Dream Keeper (1932), Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), and Fields of Wonder (1947) and the short story collections The Ways of White Folks (1934), Simple Speaks His Mind (1950), Simple Takes a Wife (1953), and Best of Simple (1961). Hughes also wrote the novels Not Without Laughter (1930) and Tambourines to Glory (1958), the autobiographical books The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1957), and the children’s books Black Misery (1969) and The Sweet and Sour Animal Book (written 1936, published 1994). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes was published in 1994. I am going to read a poem from Mr. Hughes called Harlem, and it is about how he felt about blacks being excluded from the American Dream this poem symbolizes how a black person may have shown their frustrations about the situations they went through.

What happens to a dream deferred? 

Does it dry up 

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore

and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Cite this page

Langston Hughes: A Pioneer for Black Writers. (2022, May 04). Retrieved from

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