How Is Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is regarded as the most influential poets of the Harlem Renaissance, an era where African American literature and voices were prominent in the mainstream. Born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902, Hughes’ life was largely defined by movement, as he traveled to a variety of America’s cities in search of work and expression. His poetry, novels and plays encompassed the joys, frustrations and cultural identities of a people both invisible and vibrant.

The poetry of Hughes was characterised by a candour and realness in its subjects, which aimed to capture the true essence of African American life. He was strongly critical of the establishment that he saw as complicit in the marginalisation of African Americans, particularly those in the rural South. In his poems, Hughes used the Harlem dialect and niche cultural references to express the black Southern psyche, giving visibility to the reality of racism and celebrating black culture. His work was an invaluable touchstone for the African American community during a time of great adversity.

Hughes’ writing has had an enduring influence on African American culture. He was an inspiration to many up-and-coming black writers, poets and activists, and his words still galvanise those on the margins. His writings have featured in novels and plays across the decades, and his poem “Harlem” has become an anthem for those facing poverty and oppression.

Hughes’ life story is itself one of resilience and faith in the possibility of a new beginning. His own determination to break the mould and make something of himself is a testament to the courage of those who scratched out a living in the shadows of a hostile landscape. His work is considered essential reading by writers, historians, and academics the world over, and serves as a powerful reminder of the capacity of art to transcend boundaries.

Hughes’ Impact on Art & Culture

Hughes’ poems and short stories were initially published in magazines and newspapers, before being collected in several books. His works explored themes of racial prejudice, identity and experience, a daring feat within the limited confines of the early 20th-century. His most popular works, such as Not Without Laughter, addressed the complexities of African American life at a time when this was rarely depicted in the mainstream. Meanwhile, his work for screen adaptations for the film Carmen Jones broadened the appeal of his work.

As a social justice activist, Hughes advocated revolutionary change within the African-American culture. He believed literature was a crucial tool in the fight to overcome racial inequality and injustice. His influence continues to be felt today in texts such as Toni Morrison’s Jazz, books by Alice Walker and works by Langston Hughes himself.

During his lifetime Hughes was an important figure, performing spoken-word poetry in churches and political rallies nationwide. His collected works remain some of the most evocative and powerful pieces of literature to have emanated from the Harlem Renaissance.

Legacy & Reappraisal

The impact of Hughes’ work has reverberated across generations, inspiring younger generations of black activists, intellectuals and artists around the world. This has helped fuel the recent reappraisal of Hughes, with the publication of critical texts such as The Legacy of Langston Hughes and the Recovery of the Black Text.

More recently, Hughes’ work has been adopted by hip-hop artists, who have reimagined his tranquil approach to difficult topics. His words have been sampled in hip-hop songs, and his influence on the genre as a whole could not be overstated. The themes of beauty, freedom and hope which dominate his work still serve to inspire creatives and vocalise deep-seated wants and desires.

Present-Day Resonance

Today, Hughes’ work continues to resonate with many, especially in African American communities. His poetry and stories are more relevant now than ever, in light of the current civil rights movements such as Black Lives Matter, where his words take on a renewed significance. His writings and poems return to us amplified and reinterpreted, finding a place within the new worlds they occupy.

Hughes was an extraordinary artist and deeply influential figure in modern history, whose work transcended boundaries and continues to speak to and inspire people across the globe. His optimism and courage in the face of adversity serves as a reminder today to keep faith in the ultimate triumph of freedom, justice and hope.

Analysis & Criticism of Hughes

A great deal of critical analysis has taken place surrounding Hughes’ body of work, with scholars, critics and readers debating the complexity, implications and resonance of his writings. For example, some believe the poet romanticised the lives of African Americans, representing the world as a struggle between good and evil, heroes and villains. Others view this as an oversimplification, claiming that Hughes is reflecting the difficulty of life for African Americans in a truthful, honest manner.

Scholar John Oliver believes Hughes’ message of liberation and racial equality is a powerful one, with Oliver calling him ‘one of the most influential figures in African-American literary history.’ This analysis has been echoed by other academics, though opinions remain divided on specific works and their ultimate implications.

Approaching Hughes’ Writing

To gain a comprehensive understanding of Hughes’ body of work, the writer should place his or her own cultural background into the interpretation. The cultural context in which a writer reads a Hughes poem or story is key to understanding his underlying messages and complexities, as this affects the reader’s interpretation. Historians, critics and scholars have all believed it essential to consider the historical context in which Hughes’ work was created.

It is important to consider Hughes’ technique; the language he uses and how it would have resonated with others of the time. Through a careful analysis of his words and their changing meanings across time, it is possible to assess the complexity of Hughes’ influential body of work and his central aim – to capture a moment in history and contribute to a larger dialogue surrounding the African American experience.


In conclusion, Langston Hughes’s words still linger in the collective psyche today, centuries after his death. As a poet, scholar, and writer, Hughes used his words to convey a message of resilience, hope and beauty that spoke directly to the African-American experience. His work will be forever remembered not just for its poetry, but also for its insight and its unflinching commitment to a better world.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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