The Life and Poems of Langston Hughes

Categories: Literature

James Langston Hughes more formally known as Langston Hughes was one of the most influential poets during the Harlem Renaissance that helped shape the cultural movement. Born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri; Hughes published his first poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” in 1921 in Crisis Magazine at the tender age of 19. In the same year, he enrolled at Columbia University and dropped out a year later to work as a steward on a freighter, which took him from Africa to Spain.

When Hughes returned to the United States in 1924, he was working various jobs and in 1925 while working as a kitchen helper in Washington, D.C. hotel restaurant he met an American poet named Vachel Lindsay, who after reading some of Hughes’ poetry was so impressed decided to use his connections to help bring Hughes’ poetry to a broader audience.

The following year, he won first prize in the Opportunity magazine literary competition and a full scholarship to Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania with his poem “The Weary Blues.

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” Hughes published his first novel “Not Without Laughter” after he graduated from Lincoln His work was highly influential in shaping the Harlem Renaissance because unlike the other prominent black poets Hughes “refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America.”(Acad. of Amer. Poets) On May 22, 1967, Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer, and in his honor, East 127th Street was renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”

During his lifetime, Langhe Life and Poems of Langston Hughesston Hughes wrote over 300 poems and published around 89 of them. Two of the most well-known of the 89 published are “A Dream Deferred” and Throughout the poem “A Dream Deferred,” there are multiple literary devices seen like “Mother to Son.” similes, figurative language, and personification. An example of a simile in this poem would be “does it stink like rotten meat,” of figurative language “Or fester like a sore,” and of personification “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up?.” The rhyme scheme of this poem is ABCDCEFEGHH and it conveys a dark mood. Looking at the poem “Mother to Sono literary devices seen include metaphors, figurative language, and repetition. An example of metaphors would be “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” of figurative language “It’s had tacks in it, and splinters and boards were torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor,” and repetition “I’ve still climbin’,” and “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” There is no rhyming scheme for this poem and it conveys a feeling of motivation.

When analyzing the poem “A Dream Deferred,” it is quite evident that the theme is not letting one’s dreams die. When Hughes wrote this poem it was during a time when African Americans were “free” but still being subjected to discrimination, injustices like the Jim Crow Laws, and the cruelty of lynching. Factoring in the period it was written in and Hughes’ writing style, one can conclude that this poem is talking about what happens when an African American’s dream of freedom and equality is crushed. When analyzing “Mother to Son” the theme of perseverance is quite clear because in the poem it is portrayed how much struggle the mother has and continues to go through but she just keeps trudging on. An example of this is shown in lines 2-9 “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, splinters, And boards were torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor—Bare. But all the time I’ve has been a-climbin’ on.” This resonates with Hughes’ life because of the struggles he’s had to go through living as an African American man during the 1900s like poverty and racism.

“A Dream Deferred” and “Mother to Son” are easy poems for one to relate to because of the messages portrayed in them. For instance, in “A Dream Deferred” even though we’re in the 21st Century there are still instances in a society where there’s discrimination against African Americans that can be seen every day like they’re less likely to be hired for jobs and are thought to have lower education. For “Mother to Son” one can relate to the need to persevere, when life gets you down you can’t just lay there you have to get back up and try harder because nothing in life comes easy.

To sum it all up, Langston Hughes was one of the most influential poets of his time and I would most definitely recommend his poems to anyone. Not only because his poems are interesting, but because they help portray the struggle that African Americans went through during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Also because his poetry helps influence others to try and take advantage of the opportunities they have.,

Works Cited

  1. “Harlem [Dream Deferred] by Langston Hughes.” Harlem [Dream Deferred), a Poem by Langston Hughes. Poets Love Poem at Allpoetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.
  2. “Langston Hughes Biography.” A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.
  3. “Langston Hughes.” Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.
  4. “Mother To Son by Langston Hughes.” Mother To Son, a Poem by Langston Hughes. Poets Love Poem at Allpoetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

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The Life and Poems of Langston Hughes. (2022, May 04). Retrieved from

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