When Did Langston Hughes Wrote His First Poem

Born on February 1, 1902, Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, playwright, and short story writer whose work celebrated the richness of African- American culture and explored the depths of the human experience. As a child, Hughes was exposed to poetry, music, and African-American oral stories, which no doubt had a lasting impact on his writing, especially during his formative years. The question arises: When did Langston Hughes write his first poem?

Though it is difficult to ascertain the precise day on which Langston Hughes wrote his first poem, it is known that he wrote his first poem, called “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, in 1921 at the age of 19. Before this, Hughes was an avid reader, and he also enjoyed writing short stories and novels which he shared with his peers and mentors throughout his teen years. His inspiration for the poem came from his travels across the American south. As he journeyed, he observed and was captivated by the vast rivers that he encountered – the Mississippi, Ohio, and the Colorado Rivers, in particular.

When Hughes wrote his first poem, he had only recently graduated from high school, and he was spending time with his father again, who had earlier sent his son away to Mexico, where Hughes later returned to continue his education. By this time, Langston Hughes had known he wanted to be a writer, and this poem was the beginning of his journey in creating powerful works of literature.

In addition to Hughes’s travels, it is said that the poems of Walt Whitman and other great poets he read during his teenage years had a big part in inspiring him to write his first poem. Furthermore, his grandmother, who was a great storyteller, was another powerful influence on him. She also worked hard throughout her life to keep Hughes connected to his African-American heritage and traditions.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is considered by many to be Hughes’s most renowned poem. It is a lyrical masterpiece which speaks both of the African-American’s history and Hughes’s philosophical understanding of the power of nature– the rivers symbolizing history, birth, and life. When Hughes wrote the poem, it was an immediate success, gaining the attention of many prominent African-American figures, including W.E.B. Dubois, who applauded Hughes’s work.

Having gained a huge amount of fame and popularity, Langston Hughes went on to write poems, stories, plays, and novels that have made a lasting impact on American culture and literature. Hughes’s works have been translated into multiple languages and can be found in libraries, book stores, and schools around the world to this day.

Early Life of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ early life was marked by a childhood spent in several different cities and countries due to his parents’ troubled relationship and eventual separation. Having moved around with his mother, grandmother, and eventually his father, Hughes gained a wide range of experiences and knowledge, which he used to inform his works. Hughes wrote often of the African-American culture and history, as well as the injustices they faced during that time.

In school, Hughes excelled in English and was noted for his talent as a writer. He was accepted into college at Columbia University in 1921 on a scholarship. However, after only one year he left school for financial reasons and joined his father in Mexico. Eventually, Hughes decided to return to the United States and attended Lincoln University, graduating in 1929 with a B.A..

Hughes was a great proponent of the Harlem Renaissance, a period of African-American creativity and expression that swept through the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s. He was often seen as a leader of the movement and wrote influential works which spoke on themes of black history and culture. His works branched out into many genres, such as plays, novels, and stories. Many of these works remain widely read and taught today.

Achievements and Legacy of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a prolific writer who had many achievements and awards during his lifetime. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, and he also was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1950. In addition to this, he was honored with the Lenin Peace Prize of 1952. Hughes’ works were widely read throughout the United States, and later the world, during his lifetime and remain widely read today.

Hughes was also a great civil rights activist and made many contributions to the African-American cause. He wrote several poems, stories, and plays which addressed social injustices in the United States and throughout the world. He encouraged his peers to rise up and fight for their rights, and his works remain a source of inspiration for activists today.

Langston Hughes passed away in 1967 at the age of 65, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire new generations. Hughes’s work ranging from his first poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” to his plays and stories, has been read, studied, and performed all around the world to this day. He also left behind a remarkable body of work that has been translated into multiple languages.

Influence of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a beloved poet, novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist whose work and achievements have touched the hearts and minds of generations of people worldwide. His works gave many a voice to speak up for their rights and a way to express their feelings. Through his works, Hughes gave a platform to African-American culture and history in a way that had never been done before.

Contemporary writers such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker continue to be influenced by Hughes’ work. Hughes’ poems, novels, short stories, and plays have had a lasting impression on American literature and culture and are often included in high school and college curricula worldwide.

Hughes’ legacy also lives on through scholarships, awards, and fellowships, including the Langston Hughes Fellowship at Harvard University, which is awarded to exceptionally talented and promising poets who are committed to social justice and strive to uphold African-American culture and traditions.

Critical Reception of Langston Hughes’ Work

Langston Hughes’ writings have been met with great critical acclaim throughout his lifetime and beyond, with numerous awards and praises. His poems, stories, and plays have been praised for their powerful and emotive language, and the way in which they bring to life African-American culture, history, and experiences. Many critics have also commended Hughes for his use of metaphor, symbolism, and imagery in his works.

Moreover, Hughes has received recognition for being an accessible and relatable poet, one who wrote for a wide spectrum of audiences. His works often provide common-sense solutions to everyday struggles, emphasizing the joys of life and the beauty of nature, friendship, and tradition. His works also provide comfort to soldiers, the poor, and the forgotten.

Hughes’ writings have also been praised for their timelessness and for the way in which they transcend race and culture. His writings are a testament to the power of literature and its ability to build bridges between peoples and bring about social change.


Langston Hughes was an influential and groundbreaking poet, novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist whose works have made a lasting impact on American culture and literature and continue to be read, studied, and celebrated around the world. His first poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, was written in 1921 at the age of 19, and since then, he has gone on to create a remarkable body of work that transcends race and has spoken to the struggles, triumphs, and joys of life.

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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