Langston Hughes

"Hughes\' efforts to create a poetry that truly evoked the spirit of Black
America involved a resolution of conflicts centering around the problem of
identity" (Smith 358). No African American poet, writer, and novelist has
ever been appreciated by every ethnic society as much as Langston Hughes was.
Critics argue that Hughes reached that level of prominence, because all his
works reflected on his life\'s experience, whether they have been good or bad. He
never wrote one single literary piece that did not contain an underlying message
within the specific work; in other words, all his works had a definite purpose
behind them. Providing that the reader has some insight about the life of this
great poet, he can readily arrive to the conclusion that Hughes\' life effected
his works to the fullest extent, even when only breezing through Langston
Hughes\' works. Langston Hughes, "one of the most original and versatile of
twentieth-century black writers" (Shirley 1), was born on February 1st,
1902, in Joplin, Missouri. When Hughes was still a baby, his father, James
Nathaniel Hughes, abandoned the family and left for Mexico. As soon as she
divorced her husband, his mother, Carrie Langston Hughes, a schoolteacher
struggling to acquire a permanent job position, had to place him under the
caring arm of his grandmother, Mary Sampson Patterson Leary. Hughes\' grandmother
"helped inspire in him a devotion to the cause of social justice" (Rampersad
55), for her first husband died fighting at Harpers Ferry under John Brown, and
her second husband became a fierce abolitionist. Being always a lonely child,
Hughes turned to reading and poetry early in his life. Developing a great
respect for writers like Paul Dunbar and Carl Sandburg, he soon began writing
his own poems. Shortly after submitting a few poems to the school\'s magazine
editor, Hughes\' poems could be read by everyone at Central High School, a local
Cleveland school he was attending. After his graduation, Hughes attempted to
peacefully reunite with his father, who was now a wealthy lawyer in Mexico, in
order to ask for money so he could pursue a quality post-high school education.
After his unsuccessful attempt, Hughes returned to the United States, deciding
that his faith will lie only in his hands. On his way back, Hughes wrote one of
his most famous poems "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," readily admitting
that he wrote the best when he was sad and depressed" (Early 26). In 1921,
Hughes spent a year at Columbia University, however, just to find out that he
did not make the right choice, for colleges were still discriminating regularly.
Looking for jobs, he landed a position as a seaman on the SS Malone that brought
him closer to his own race emotionally, by traveling to Africa and Europe.
"Although he was almost constantly at sea, his poems got published
regularly in African-American magazines such as the Crisis." (Rampersad
118). By this time, Hughes already established himself as the young star of the
New Negro Renaissance. As time passed, a young, unskilled, position-seeking
Hughes became a bus boy at the prominent Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C..
After Vachel Lindsay recited three of his poems, which Hughes intentionally left
by Vachel\'s plate, he received slight attention from different publishers. When
Hughes won his first poetry award in 1925 through a contest by a journal called
Negro Life, his award winning poem got him further recognition, that would
eventually lead to his first book, The Weary Blues. Soon enough, "through
his poetry, from a kind and generous woman who had shown interest in his work,
came a scholarship" (Smith 359). Four years later, in 1929, Hughes
graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania with a B.A.. Never even
thinking about his young age, other authors selected Hughes to become the leader
of the Harlem Renaissance, a literary circle of black writers focusing on the
social problems blacks had to endure. Along with writers like Countee Cullen,
Wallace Thurman and others, he struggled to prove that the great spirit or skill
of writing tremendous pieces of literature lies within the white and the black
mind and body. When jazz stepped into the picture, being the most popular music
of that time, Hughes effectively turned a bit more toward jazz, writing his
poems in a distinctive rhythm and beat. "I can not recall the name of one
single person, who at the age of twenty-seven, has enjoyed so picturesque and
rambling existence as Langston Hughes" (Smith 363). Hughes also started
writing short novels, plays and songs. His play The Mulatto, a tragic play about
racial controversies, made it to Broadway in 1935