Born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, MO, Langston Hughes had a grandmother who played a critical role in his upbringing. A woman of incredible influence, Dr. Mary Langston, his paternal grandmother, helped shape his life in profound ways. Tragically, when did Dr. Langston passed away, her death left a deep wound in the poet’s heart and influenced his identity in a profound way.
By the time Hughes was born, his grandmother was already a strong, independent woman—a rarity as it was a time when black women were customarily powerless against the damage that oppression caused. It was clear that even as a young woman, Dr. Langston had a vision and knew how to use her talents, rank and intellect in an efficient way to support her black community and fight against injustice.
Dr. Langston was a well educated woman of wit, strength and grit. After acquiring a degree from Oberlin University in Ohio and becoming a nationally-known speaker at black churches in the United States, she began embarking on a journey of extraordinary transformation. Dr. Langston was the first black woman to practice medicine in the state of Ohio and the first female doctor to own land in Mississippi.
The remarkable story of Dr. Langston unfolded in Hughes’ childhood home. He was deeply influenced by her presence and was able to grasp a better comprehension of the power of faith and the impact one’s determination can have. Dr. Langston personified this exemplary attitude and also instilled a strong sense of courage and ambition in her grandson.
When she passed away in 1934, her death did not break Langston Hughes. Instead, it only deepened his love and admiration for her. To him, she was a brave woman who never succumbed to the calamity of hate and injustice that surrounded her and he found strength in her devotion toward civil rights.
The imprint Dr. Langston left on the poet is evident not only in his works but also in his being. In an interview, Hughes unambiguously confirmed the notable impact his grandmother had on his identity, by relating a metaphor: “a seed that was planted in me and grew into a certain vision of life”.
LEGACY OF DR. LANGSTON: EMPOWERING FEMALE FIGURES IN HISTORY
As a spirited activist and advocate of her community, Langston inspired countless individuals and continues to do so, even after her death. She sparked the energy of progressiveness in others and proved that women do have an undeniable role in politics, thus making a name for herself as a courageous female figure in history.
As a result, many women are now encouraged to assist in the battle for social justice and take pride in the fact that a woman like Dr. Langston, who was able to overcome numerous obstacles, once lived. Moreover, Dr. Langston’s legacy has allowed female figures of today, including notable ones such as Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to be idolized for their positive influence.
THE INFLUENCE OF DR. LANGSTON ON HUGHES’ WORK
Dr. Langston’s life and her story of courage never ceased to inspire Hughes. His poetry, which was seen as one of the most defining pieces of literature in the Harlem Renaissance Movement, was heavily inspired by her molding him into a person with a strong sense of identity and understanding of the world. Upon the death of his grandmother, the harsh reality of racism and oppression in the country that had taken Dr. Langston away, pushed Langston Hughes to write his thought-provoking works.
Hughes’s poems were direct tributes to his grandmother as he thought of her as an example of how an individual has the power to exhibit resilience, even in the harshest of realities. In his renowned work, “One Way Ticket,” which is dedicated to Dr. Langston, Hughes brilliantly celebrates her and her mission as he writes: “And as she looked up, I saw beyond the shadow of her face, the vision of a people in a far off and unknown place.” Even after writing various works, and receiving international acclaim, Langston Hughes never forgot his grandmother, Dr. Mary Langston, echoing her resilience in his inspiring works for years to come.
CULTURAL INFLUENCE OF DR. LANGSTON
The legacy of Dr. Langston has transcended boundaries and remains deeply influential in our culture. Numerous research organizations, community centers and historical monuments that speak to fighting racism, jazz & poetry cultures and civil rights are correlated to her character. Additionally, two distinct organizations were created in honor of her life, ‘The Mary Louis Langston Foundation’ and “The Langston Public Library’, both of which seek to empower minority communities.
Dr. Langston was a source of inspiration and change, someone who was able to spark a tremendous wave of progressiveness through her endeavors and beliefs. Even after her death, the world has kept her effects alive, allowing others to benefit from her courage and inspiring charisma.
MODERN-DAY ADVOCACY OF DR. LANGSTON’S BELIEFS
The story of Dr. Langston remains a central part of Langston Hughes’ life and work today. Recent pieces, including the smash Broadway show “Hamilton”, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, contain strong references to her character. In 2016, The Mary Langston Foundation was the catalyst for launching the ‘Mary Langston Freedom Ride’, a tribute to the fight for emancipation made famous by Dr. Langston.
These events and organizations continue to be symbols of courage and strength, both of which stand for what Dr. Langston had emphasized and fight for today. By taking part in these projects, people from all walks of life continue her legacy and are reminded of the power of perseverance and courage. People are also inspired by her fight against injustices, more than ever, significantly in times of tumult when people may succumb to fear and instill a culture of defeatism.
HUGHES’ TRIBUTE TO HIS GRANDMOTHER:A BEAUTIFUL CONCLUSION
Hughes wrote a beautiful ode to honor the memory of his grandmother which was titled ‘My People’. By writing this piece, Hughes commemorates the legacy of Dr. Langston and reflects on the inspiration she had on him. This poem is a heartfelt letter from him to his grandmother, thanking her for inspiring him to fight for equality, pursue his dreams and to be consistently strong. This homage is only a glimpse into Hughes’s admiration for his forebear and a proof of how great of an influence she was on his life.
CONCLUSION OF DR. LANGSTON’S ENDURING LEGACY
Even after her death, Mary Langston continues to be a beloved figure and a catalyst for remarkable change. The courage of her story is an ongoing source of motivation for people all around the world, decried as a relentless voice of justice, inspiring generations of people to continue to fight tirelessly against oppression and racism.
The life of Langston Hughes’ grandmother, Dr. Mary Langston, is an example of courage, resilience and triumph over fear. As a symbol of hope and progress, her name will never be forgotten and her legacy shall remain alive and forever remembered as a crucial part of literature, culture and civil rights.