What Was Langston Hughes Career

Early Beginnings

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents also had a son named John, who was born just one year after Langston. His mother Carrie Langston was headteacher of the local Colored High School and wrote novels, short stories and poems while his father James Nathaniel Hughes was a lawyer who traveled a lot. Although the couple eventually divorced in 1913, they both had a huge impact in shaping the early life of their son.
At the age of thirteen Langston moved to Ohio to live with his mother, there he enrolled in high school and also took classes at the Cleveland Art School to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. After graduating high school in 1920, he moved to Mexico to live with his father and while there, he wrote poetry and became interested in the idea of joining the art worlds in Harlem.

Rise to Fame

Eventually, Langston moved to New York City in 1921 and enrolled in the renowned Columbia University to study engineering. However, due to financial difficulties he soon dropped out of school and began to work as a busboy in the popular Harlem Civilization Cafe. Surrounded by the music, art, and culture of the African-American, Langston began writing poetry and eventually started to take part in poetry readings and even began contributing to many of the African-American newspapers and magazines.
In 1926, Langston’s first collection of poems, The Weary Blues, was published. The success of that collection opened new opportunities for Langston, including a writing fellowship in which he traveled to Europe and beyond. While in Europe, Langston developed a passion for modernism, particularly the style of surrealism, which he incorporated into many of his works.

Gaining National Recognition

By the mid-1930s, Langston’s poems and short stories were gaining national recognition and he even began writing plays and musicals, causing him to become an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He also joined the Federal Writers’ Project, a government initiative that provided employment for writers during the Great Depression. Langston was chosen to write about African-American life in Washington D.C. for the project.
In 1941, Langston won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for his book of poetry, Montage of a Dream Deferred, which introduced a whole new audience to his work. By the late 1940s Langston started to move away from his surrealism style and worked on autobiographical works, exposing readers to his childhood experiences and his journey of becoming an influential writer. Langston also formed friendships with many important literary figures, including Mark Twain and Carl Sandburg, and continued working as a writer, activist and teacher until his death in 1967.

Advocacy of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Langston Hughes was an outspoken advocate of civil rights and civil liberties through his writing and activism. In the 1940s, he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and started to write more pieces that addressed the issue of racial inequality and injustice. Throughout the 1950s, Langston continued to focus on civil rights, particularly segregation and racial discrimination, and was a major participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He wrote several articles, gave speeches and even appeared on television shows to advocate for civil rights.
As an African-American and an influential writer, Langston was an inspiration to many of his peers. He wrote about topics such as racism, discrimination, and poverty, often from an African-American perspective, and used his platform to speak out against oppression. His works have inspired many other writers, artists and activists, and he remains an important figure in African-American literature and culture today.

Legacy and Recognition

Langston Hughes is considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and is often referred to as the ‘Poet Laureate of Harlem.’ He was among the first to write about the everyday struggles of African-Americans and to bring the African-American experience to a wider audience. His works have been translated into more than two dozen languages and his poems have inspired civil rights activists, students and readers all over the world.
Langston has also been honored with numerous awards and recognitions. In 1960, he was designated as the State Author of New York, and 1969 he was posthumously honored with an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. His legacy is honored each year with the Langston Hughes Reading Series at the Langston Hughes Center at Ohio State University or with various events such as the Langston Hughes Festival, the Langston Hughes Symposium at Lincoln University and the Langston Hughes Festival at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Influence on Other Writers

Not only was Langston influential in the Civil Rights Movement and African-American literature, but his works have also impacted and inspired many other writers. Maya Angelou, a prominent poet, novelist and civil rights activist herself, appreciated Langston’s ability to make people feel that their lives had meaning and to celebrate their successes despite any adversity. American author Toni Morrison wrote inspired by Langston’s “innovative” writing style and was inspired to become a writer when she read his works.
In the literary world, Langston Hughes is recognized for introducing a new style of literature that focused on telling the stories of African-Americans. He was also the first writer to integrate jazz rhythms into his work, showing readers that language can be musical. Langston’s influence extended far beyond his lifetime and he continues to be celebrated and remembered as one of the most important American writers of his time.

Writing Process

Langston had a unique approach to writing. He rarely used metaphors and instead focused more on strong imagery and emotion. He often told stories and used everyday language to make his stories resonate with people. Langston recognized the value of writing and argued that it can be used to inspire and bring change. In a 1945 interview, he said “I try to write poems that will continue sounding in people’s ears after I’m gone and help to change people’s hearts and minds.”
Langston was also an advocate for creative expression and saw it as a form of self-expression and liberation. He often wrote about the beauty of African-American life and culture. Langston was also known for making revisions to his own works and often collaborated with other writers and editors.

Making an Impact

Langston Hughes made a lasting impact on society and will always be remembered for his works and his advocacy for civil rights and creative expression. His works and passion for literature, music, and life have inspired generations of readers and writers. Even today, Langston’s work, his stories and his relevance remain strong. His works are still being studied in classrooms and celebrated, carried on by readers all around the world.
Langston Hughes was also ahead of his time and envisioned a positive future for African-Americans. In his 1945 collection of poems, Montage of a Dream Deferred, Langston wrote “Let the rain fall down, the dew come up, and the night wrap round me like a shawl — and I will still hug the dream and be glad.” His words are a reminder that no matter how difficult the circumstances, our dreams and goals will always remain within reach if we strive for them.

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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