What Was Langston Hughes Family Like

Family History

Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin Missouri to James Nathaniel Hughes and Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes His parents split soon after his birth, leaving Langston Hughes and his sister to be raised by his grandmother Mary Patterson. At the age of 13, Hughes and his grandmother moved to Lawrence, Kansas, to join her son (Langston’s uncle) who had moved there a year before. In spite of the divorce, Langston Hughes and his father James remained close throughout his life.

James Nathaniel Hughes was born a slave, but his father Nathaniel Hughes was the product of a relationship between his natural father and the daughter of his owner. James grew up to be a lawyer who was respected in the black community. He was also a journalist, writing for the Commoner a periodical based in Topeka, Kansas. James later became a Texas landowner and was also a politically active abolitionist, supporting the Move of 1895.

Carrie Langston Hughes, Langston’s mother, was the daughter of Charles Henry Langston, who was a ringleader of the underground railroad and one of the most prominent activists in the pre-Civil War struggle for freedom. Carrie herself was a school teacher, who went on to marry Andrew Washington Potran in 1908. Carrie had only limited contact with her son following her remarriage, but the two still remained close.

Early Life

As the son of two accomplished individuals from a strong family backdrop, Langston Hughes was exposed to African American life from an early age and developed a strong understanding of the cultural and racial issues faced by African Americans in America during the early 20th century. His understanding and deep empathy for his cultural community played a key role in his literary career.

After his mother and grandmother relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1915, Hughes, who had already developed a knack for writing poetry, attended high school there. After graduating, Hughes went to Mexico with his father and then attended Columbia University in 1921, where he studied engineering. However, Hughes soon dropped out and returned to Harlem in 1922, where he dedicated himself to writing poetry and short stories.

Hughes was an active figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and was heavily influenced by jazz and modernism. During his lifetime, Hughes wrote a number of books, plays, and musicals and also worked on a series of documentaries about African American life and culture. Though deeply embedded in the African American community, Hughes himself was not overtly political, but he did support African American freedom movements at the time.

Later Life

Though Langston Hughes did not become a major literary figure until the mid-1930s, he was already living in Harlem and actively engaging in cultural life as early as the 1920s. His writing during this time often explored the attitudes of black Americans towards poverty and everyday life. He also wrote plays, musicals, and essays, which examined the difficulties of interracial relationships and explored racial issues in an accessible and meaningful way.

In 1929, Hughes traveled to Moscow, where he wrote one of his most well-known works, “Let America Be America Again”, which was an impassioned plea for greater racial equality in the United States. Hughes also wrote novels, including Not Without Laughter and The Ways of White Folks, as well as a number of collections of poetry, including The Weary Blues, Fine Clothes to the Jew, and Words of Freedom.

Hughes was a major figure in African American culture, and his influence continues to be felt today. He was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that triggered the exploration of African American themes and perspectives in literature, art, and music.


Langston Hughes’ poetry, stories and plays had a major impact on social changes and on African American culture, especially during the Harlem Renaissance. He was a major influence on many African American poets and writers, including Amiri Baraka, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker, and Robert Hayden.

In modern times, Hughes’ influence can still be seen in fashion, art, music, and literature; he is also considered one of the major figures of the modernist movement. He is best remembered for his powerful and passionate poetry about life, love, race, and struggle. Even today, his work remains relevant, inspiring modern writers and artists to continue exploring and developing themes of social justice, race, and identity.

Notable Achievements

Throughout his lifetime, Langston Hughes received numerous awards and accolades. He was awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1945, and the following year, he was given the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. He was also awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1946, and in 1965 he was posthumously awarded the National Book Award for his collection of poems, The Panther and the Lash.

In 1979, Hughes was honored with a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his contribution to literature. And in 1997, he was posthumously inducted into the National Book Award Hall of Fame and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Hall of Fame.


Langston Hughes was a powerful and influential figure of both his time and afterward. His work continues to be admired and studied, and it has been quoted and admired by many. His poetry, stories and plays explored a variety of themes, from poverty to racism and his writing had an enormous influence on literature, art, fashion, and music. From his illustrious ancestry to his prominent legacy, Langston Hughes will remain an important part of African American culture and literature.


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.

Leave a Comment