His full names were James Mercer Langston Hughes. He was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He is credited to be one of the foremost developers of the then-new literary art form known as the jazz poetry. He was born on the first day of February, 1902 and died on the twenty second day of May, 1967.
Fact 1: Langston earned prestigious awards during the course of his career ranging from the Spingarn Medal – 1960, The Quill Award for Poetry – 2005 (Let America be America again and other poems), Anis field Wolf Book Award – 1954 (Simple takes a wife) and Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts US and Canada – 1935.
Fact 2: The 1920s was popularly referred to as the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ in the poetry world. This was as a result of the coming into being a high number of competent and innovative black writers. It was during this period that Langston made his mark. Bose Heyward once remarked in the New York Herald Tribune in 1926 ‘Langston Hughes, although only twenty-four years old, is already conspicuous in the group of Negro intellectuals who are dignifying Harlem with a genuine art life’.
Fact 3: He was born to Caroline Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes. He attended the Lincoln University from the year 1926 to the year 1929 and Columbia University from 1921 to 1922. His plays included the Black Nativity, Tambourines to Glory, Mule Bone and Jerico Jim Crow while some of his books are Thank you M’am, Not without laughter, The ways of white folks, Mother to son and the Big sea.
Fact 4: Langston was very much unique and his style always differed from that of his predecessors. The renowned critic Donald B. Gibson stated during the introductory event of the Modern Black Poets: A collection of critical essays, that Langston directed his poetry to people, specifically the black race. This was an uncommon trait observed among black poets at that point in time.
Fact 5: His death in 1967 occurred as a direct result of prostate cancer’s complications. In his memorial, his residential home at 20 East 127th street in Harlem was declared a landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission and the street is now known as ‘Langston Hughes Place’.
Fact 6: Hughes encountered numerous challenges with critics of both white and black origin, not withstanding, he managed to record the nuances of black life and its frustrations judiciously. His writings and public lectures activities earned him enough fortune and this basically made him the first African American to earn his living solely from these two sources.
Fact 7: Prior to his twelfth birthday, Langston Hughes had already lived in six distinct American cities. He had already worked as a truck farmer, cook, waiter, college graduate, sailor, and doorman at a nightclub in Paris, and had visited Mexico, West Africa, the Azores, the Canary Islands, Holland, France, and Italy, prior to the publication of his first book.
Fact 8: Hughes so much believed in humanity and hoped to see a world in which people see reasons to live together with understanding irrespective of their racial backgrounds. This led to a massive drop in popularity for Hughes in the racially turbulent years of his latter life.
Fact 9: It was the norm during the twenties for most American poets to turn inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers. Hughes decided to be different and turned outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read. Until the time of his death, he spread his message comically, though always with intent to audiences throughout the country, having read his poetry to more people than any other American poet.
Fact 10: Hughes left a large body of poetic work for younger generations, and equally wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books during the course of his lifetime.