When Did Langston Hughes Begin To Write Poetry

Early Years

Langston Hughes is one of the most iconic figures of American literature. His life spanned from 1902 to 1967, and during that period he wrote an impressive range of poetry, short stories, plays, novels and other forms of writing. He wrote extensively about the plight of African Americans in the United States, as well as themes of hope, faith, and racial identity. He is credited with being a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, an intellectual new wave that led to the flowering of African American arts, literature and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. But when did Hughes begin to write poetry?
Well, Langston Hughes began writing poetry as early as 1912, when he was just 10 years old. He began to informally receive feedback and encouragement from family and friends when his works began to be circulated around his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. His teacher, Alice M. Cunningham, also encouraged him to submit his work to literary magazines and contests.
In 1922, when Hughes was still in his teens, his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was published in The Crisis magazine. It was an instant success and solidified Hughes as one of the leading poets of his generation. He continued to write and publish poetry, and in 1926, he published his first volume of poetry, The Weary Blues, which became one of his most influential collections of poetry.

Style & Inspiration

As a young writer, Langston Hughes drew inspirations from many sources. He was strongly influen and inspired by African American blues and jazz music. Hughes used a special blend of musicality and rhythm in his poetry, often drawing from musical traditions to communicate meaning. He also used dialects and colloquialisms to give his poetry a distinct quality that was identifiable to his African American audience.
Hughes was also intrigued by black heritage and the role it played in African American identity during the Harlem Renaissance. He often used motifs and images of African American folk history to connect his poetry to his own experience and that of those around him. As he grew older, Hughes’ poems also took on a decidedly political dimension as he commented on the civil rights movement, segregation, and all forms of injustice against African Americans.


Langston Hughes is one of the most important and influential figures in American poetry and literature. He wrote extensively about the African American experience and championed the rights and progress of his people. His work expressed the complexities and nuances of Black life, offering an alternative to the reductive ideals of the time.
Hughes’ work inspired generations of writers and artists, paving the way for a more honest and expansive representation of African American life. He made excellent use of accessible language, which allowed his work to reach a broad audience. He was also one of the first poets to use the blues as an inspiration for his own writing and incorporate jazz music into his verse.


Langston Hughes left a deep and profound impact on American culture and literature. As a highly accomplished and successful poet and writer, Hughes has had an influence on the African American experience that still resonates today. He further inspired civil rights activism and opposition to oppression. His work became a rallying cry for social change and greater racial justice.
Additionally, Hughes’ works have been used as educational tools. Schools and organizations host workshops, lectures and events dedicated to Hughes’ works, giving thousands of students the opportunity to discover his work, his history, and the influence of his work on our everyday lives. His work has also been adapted for stage and film, reaching even wider audiences.

Recognition & Awards

Langston Hughes has been praised throughout the years for his pioneering contributions to American literature. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Poetry. He was also inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame and was posthumously recognized by both the US Postal Service and the State Department for his literary achievements.
In 1995, the United States Mint issued a commemorative Langston Hughes quarter. On the quarter, Hughes is featured alongside the bebop jazz legend stride pianist, Thelonious Monk. The coin was meant to honor Hughes’ groundbreaking writing which brought jazz to the page.

Influence on Others

Langston Hughes had a profound influence on the lives of many other writers and thinkers. His highly emotional and direct style were adopted by several other writers, including Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin. Hughes’ work inspired a whole new generation of African American writers. He helped to synthesize and define the written experiences of African Americans, as well as shape and influence political discourse.
In conclusion, Langston Hughes began to write poetry in 1912, when he was only 10 years old. He began to informally receive feedback and encouragement from family and friends when his works began to be circulated around his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. That same year, his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was published in The Crisis magazine to much acclaim, and Hughes’ career was launched. From then on, Hughes went on to influence generations of young writers and shape the African American experience through his work.

Influential Theme

One of the most influential themes in Langston Hughes’ poetry is the idea of black pride and identity. Throughout his work, Hughes galvanized African Americans’ sense of pride for their history, culture, and experiences. He used his work to push for greater acceptance and recognition of African Americans in the US and in society at large. Hughes wrote extensively about topics of racism and injustice against African Americans, often from a personal perspective. He captured the emotions of a people forced to live in a society separated by deeply rooted social and class divisions. Through his poetry, he helped to give African Americans’ own voice and to provide a space in which they could express themselves.

Personal Perspective

Langston Hughes had a very personal perspective on African American culture and identity, one rooted in his own experiences as a black man in the early 20th century. As he noted in his autobiography The Big Sea, “I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on Seventh Street…I wanted to tell the white world, ‘I, too, am America’.” For Hughes, his writing was more than just art – it was a way to address the injustices of his time, to assert the importance of African American existence, and to create a sense of community and solidarity among African Americans.

Technique & Process

Langston Hughes was a master of his craft, carefully crafting and perfecting his works before they ever reached print. He employed a variety of techniques, including alliteration, assonance, and anaphora, to create a musical quality to his work. He also used dialect and colloquialisms, which he often combined with traditional poetic forms, adding a special texture to his work. Hughes was both a meticulous and passionate writer, driven by a need to share his ideas and to engage with his audience.

Impact on American Literature

Langston Hughes had a tremendous impact on American literature, beyond his works and his own career. His techniques and perspectives, from his keen and unique use of imagery to his sincere and passionate voice, have inspired generations of writers. His work helped to shape how we think about African American identity and how we approach writing about it – and it continues to influence how we tell stories and offer meaningful perspectives. Hughes was a poet of extraordinary talent and passion, and his influence is still felt even today.

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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