Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an American poet and writer, one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Hughes is often credited with creating jazz poetry. Later in his career he became an outspoken social critic as well, appearing on many of the most influential African Americans lists.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. Both of his paternal great-grandmothers had been slaves, and both of his paternal great-grandfathers had been slave owners. After the separation of his parents, Langston was raised by his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. As a child, he was elected class poet, developing his skills through high school. He briefly attended Columbia University, but left because of racism. Eventually he earned a degree from Lincoln University, but his literary career had become successful by them, and he made Harlem his primary residence for the remainder of his life.
One of the first, and most enduring, of Langston Hughes’ poems is “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” which was first published in The Crisis in 1921. It later appeared in his first collection The Weary Blues. Much of his work depicted the lives of working-class African Americans, lives he depicted as full of struggle and joy. In 1941, he published a volume of short stories, The Ways of White Folks. Langston Hughes died in 1967 and his ashes are interred beneath the floor of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.