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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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He published a second volume of poetry, Fine Clothes to the Jew, in 1927.
After his graduation from Lincoln in 1929, Hughes published his first novel, Not Without Laughter. The book was commercially successful enough to convince Hughes that he could make a living as a writer. During the 1930s, Hughes would frequently travel the United States on lecture tours, and also abroad to the Soviet Union, Japan, and Haiti. He continued to write and publish poetry and prose during this time,
and in 1934 he published his first collection of short stories, The Ways of White Folks. In 1937 he served as a war correspondent for several American newspapers during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1940, Hughes's autobiography up to age 28, The Big Sea, was published. Also around this time, Hughes began contributing a column to the Chicago Defender, for which he created a comic character named Jesse B. Semple, better known as "Simple," a black Everyman that Hughes used to further explore urban, working-class black themes, and to address racial issues. The columns were highly successful, and "Simple" would later be the focus of several of Hughes's books and plays.
In the late 1940s, Hughes contributed the lyrics for a Broadway musical titled Street Scene, which featured music by Kurt Weill. The success of the musical would earn Hughes enough money that he was finally able to buy a house in Harlem. Around this time, he also taught creative writing at Atlanta University and was a guest lecturer at a university in Chicago for several months.
Over the next two decades, Hughes would continue his prolific output. In 1949 he wrote a play that inspired the opera Troubled Island and published yet another anthology of work, The Poetry of the Negro. During the 1950s and 1960s, he published countless other works, including several books in his "Simple" series, English translations of the poetry of Federico García Lorca and Gabriela Mistral, another anthology of his own poetry, and the second installment of his autobiography, I Wonder as I Wander.
On May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes died from complications of prostate cancer. A tribute to his poetry, his funeral contained little in the way of spoken eulogy, but was filled with jazz and blues music. Hughes's ashes were interred beneath the entrance of the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black culture in Harlem. The inscription marking the spot features a line from Hughes's poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." It reads: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers."
Hughes's Harlem home, on East 127th Street, received New York City Landmark status in 1981 and was added to the National Register of Places in 1982. Volumes of his work continue to be published and translated throughout the world.
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