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Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, and playwright whose African-American themes made him a primary contributor to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
Author and poet Langston Hughes lived in a brownstone on 127th Street in Harlem and found inspiration for his writing in his beloved neighborhood.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, speaks about Langston Hughes' relationship to the Schomburg and why the author's ashes are buried at the library.
Langston Hughes was the leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance, whose poetry showcased the dignity and beauty in ordinary black life. The hours he spent in Harlem clubs affected his work, making him one of the innovators of Jazz Poetry.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of the most famous authors of the Jazz Age, best known for his novel "The Great Gatsby." After reaching success, he struggled with alcoholism and died at the age of 44.
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Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. He published his first poem in 1921. He attended Columbia University, but left after one year to travel. His poetry was later promoted by Vachel Lindsay, and Hughes published his first book in 1926. He went on to write countless works of poetry, prose and plays, as well as a popular column for the Chicago Defender. He died on May 22, 1967.
"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose."
"I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go."
"We Negro writers, just by being black, have been on the blacklist all our lives. Censorship for us begins at the color line."
"Humor is laughing at what you haven't got when you ought to have it."
"Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
"The first two or three days, on the way home from school, little white kids, kids my age, 6 and 7 years old, who would throw stones at me. There were other little white kids, 6 and 7 years old, who picked up stones and threw them back at their fellow classmates, and defend me, and saw that I got home safely. So, I learned very early in life that our race problem is not really of black against white, and white against black. It's a problem of people who are not very knowledgeable, or have small minds, or small spirits."
"Negroes—sweet and docile, meek, humble and kind: Beware the day—they change their mind."
"I swear to the Lord, I can't see why democracy means everybody but me."
"Like welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you."
"Negro blood is sure powerful, because just one drop of black blood makes a colored man. One drop you are a Negro! ...Black is powerful."
"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly."
"Life is a system of half-truths and lies, opportunistic, convenient evasion."
"No woman can be handsome by the force of features alone, any more that she can be witty by only the help of speech."
"Jessie Fauset at 'The Crisis,' Charles Johnson at 'Opportunity' and Alain Locke in Washington were the three people who midwifed the so-called 'New Negro Literature' into being. Kind and critical—but not too critical for the young—they nursed us along until our books were born."
James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents, James Hughes and Carrie Langston, separated soon after his birth, and his father moved to Mexico. While Hughes’s mother moved around during his youth, Hughes was raised primarily by his maternal grandmother, Mary, until she died in his early teens. From that point, he went to live with his mother, and they moved to several cities before eventually settling in Cleveland, Ohio. It was during this time that Hughes first began to write poetry, and that one of his teachers first introduced him to the poetry of Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman, both whom Hughes would later cite as primary influences. Hughes was also a regular contributor to his school's literary magazine, and frequently submitted to other poetry magazines, although they would ultimately reject him.
Hughes graduated from high school in 1920 and spent the following year in Mexico with his father. Around this time, Hughes's poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" was published in The Crisis magazine and was highly praised. In 1921 Hughes returned to the United States and enrolled at Columbia University where he studied briefly, and during which time he quickly became a part of Harlem's burgeoning cultural movement, what is commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance. But Hughes dropped out of Columbia in 1922 and worked various odd jobs around New York for the following year, before signing on as a steward on a freighter that took him to Africa and Spain. He left the ship in 1924 and lived for a brief time in Paris, where he continued to develop and publish his poetry.
In November 1924, Hughes returned to the United States and worked various jobs. In 1925, he was working as a busboy in a Washington, D.C. hotel restaurant when he met American poet Vachel Lindsay. Hughes showed some of his poems to Lindsay, who was impressed enough to use his connections to promote Hughes’s poetry and ultimately bring it to a wider audience. In 1925, Hughes’s poem “The Weary Blues” won first prize in the Opportunity magazine literary competition, and Hughes also received a scholarship to attend Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania. While studying at Lincoln, Hughes poetry came to the attention of novelist and critic Carl Van Vechten, who used his connections to help get Hughes’s first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, published by Knopf in 1926. The book had popular appeal and established both his poetic style and his commitment to black themes and heritage. Hughes was also among the first to use jazz rhythms and dialect to depict the life of urban blacks in his work.
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