James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in
Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and
his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he
was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his
mother and her husband, eventually settling in Cleveland, Ohio. It was
in Lincoln, Illinois, that Hughes began writing poetry. Following
graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University.
During these years, he held odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer,
and a busboy, and travelled 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 by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He
finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania
three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter,
won the Harmon gold medal for literature.
Hughes, who claimed
Paul Lawrence Dunbar,
Carl Sandburg, and
Walt Whitman as his primary
influences, is particularly known for his insightful, 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, as in Montage of a Dream Deferred.
His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic
contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other
notable black poets of the period--Claude
McKay, Jean Toomer, and
Countee Cullen--Hughes refused
to differentiate between his personal experience and the common
experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people
in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their
suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.
Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate
cancer in May 22, 1967, in New York. In his memory, his residence at 20
East 127th Street in Harlem, New York City, has been given landmark
status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th
Street was renamed "Langston Hughes Place."
A Selected Bibliography
Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (1961)
Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1994)
Dear Lovely Death (1931)
Fields of Wonder (1947)
Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927)
Freedom's Plow (1943)
Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)
One-Way Ticket (1949)
Scottsboro Limited (1932)
Selected Poems (1959)
Shakespeare in Harlem (1942)
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932)
The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times (1967)
The Weary Blues (1926)
Good Morning, Revolution: Uncollected Social
Protest Writings by Langston Hughes (1973)
I Wonder as I Wander (1956)
Laughing to Keep From Crying (1952)
Not Without Laughter (1930)
Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van
Vechten, 1925-1964 (2001)
Simple Speaks His Mind (1950)
Simple Stakes a Claim (1957)
Simple Takes a Wife (1953)
Simple's Uncle Sam (1965)
Something in Common and Other Stories (1963)
Tambourines to Glory (1958)
The Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters (1980)
The Big Sea (1940)
The Langston Hughes Reader (1958)
The Ways of White Folks (1934)
Black Nativity (1961)
Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vol. 5: The Plays to 1942:
Mulatto to The Sun Do Move (2000)
Don't You Want to Be Free? (1938)
Five Plays by Langston Hughes (1963)
Little Ham (1935)
Mule Bone (1930)
Simply Heavenly (1957)
Soul Gone Home (1937)
The Political Plays of Langston Hughes (2000)
Poetry in Translation
Cuba Libre (1948)
Gypsy Ballads (1951)
Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral (1957)
Masters of the Dew (1947)
living . . . a la carte?
Come to the Waldorf-Astoria!
LISTEN HUNGRY ONES!
Look! See what Vanity Fair says about the
"All the luxuries of private home. . . ."
Now, won't that be charming when the last flop-house
has turned you down this winter?
"It is far beyond anything hitherto attempted in the hotel
world. . . ." It cost twenty-eight million dollars. The fa-
mous Oscar Tschirky is in charge of banqueting.
Alexandre Gastaud is chef. It will be a distinguished
background for society.
So when you've no place else to go, homeless and hungry
ones, choose the Waldorf as a background for your rags--
(Or do you still consider the subway after midnight good
Take a room at the new Waldorf, you down-and-outers--
sleepers in charity's flop-houses where God pulls a
long face, and you have to pray to get a bed.
They serve swell board at the Waldorf-Astoria. Look at the menu, will
CRABMEAT IN CASSOLETTE
BOILED BRISKET OF BEEF
SMALL ONIONS IN CREAM
Have luncheon there this afternoon, all you jobless.
Dine with some of the men and women who got rich off of
your labor, who clip coupons with clean white fingers
because your hands dug coal, drilled stone, sewed gar-
ments, poured steel to let other people draw dividends
and live easy.
(Or haven't you had enough yet of the soup-lines and the bit-
ter bread of charity?)
Walk through Peacock Alley tonight before dinner, and get
warm, anyway. You've got nothing else to do.
April Rain Song
rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
the white kids
I ain't sent:
I know I can't
What don't bug
them white kids
sure bugs me:
We know everybody
Lies written down
for white folks
ain't for us a-tall:
Liberty And Justice--
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.