Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Langston Hughes

A renowned poet, playwright, and novelist, Langston Hughes was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Joplin, Missouri and raised for several years by his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas, he discovered books early and began writing while still in high school. Moving to Harlem at the beginning of the 1920s, he published what remains one of his best known poems, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” in 1921. Collections such as The Weary Blues (1926) and Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927) followed, as well as a novel, Not Without Laughter (1930). During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Hughes travelled widely, including to the Soviet Union, and wrote and spoke about politically left-wing causes. He published an autobiography, The Big Sun, in 1940, and continued writing until his death in 1967. Given the homophobia in U.S. society during his lifetime, Hughes never indicated publicly whether he was romantically drawn to men. But he was known to have close male relationships, including with Sunday Osuya, a Nigerian, and Gilbert Price.