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

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. He began writing poetry, short stories, and plays in high school, and briefly attended Cornell University, but dropped out in 1921 and moved to Harlem, which was emerging as a center of Black creativity. There, he worked with writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and Richard Bruce Nugent and helped produce the literary magazine Fire! He then became a crewman on the S.S. Malone, through which he traveled throughout Africa and Europe, after which he lived with his mother in Washington, D.C. He published his first collection of poetry, The Weary Blues, in 1926, and earned a degree from Lincoln University in 1929. He went on to publish prolifically, with sixteen poetry collections, eleven novels, six nonfiction books, twelve plays, and eight children's books. He was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship and honorary degrees from Howard University, Lincoln University, and Western Reserve University. Hughes died on May 22, 1967, in New York City. Various Hughes scholars and biographers have argued that Hughes was homosexual, based on a series of unpublished poems thought to have been written to a male love interest or potential homosexual codes in his published work, similarly to Walt Whitman, who Hughes cited as an influence. Others, based on Hughes’s personal correspondence, have argued that he was asexual. More about Hughes is included in the exhibit LGBT African Americans (2014), by Kali Henderson and Dionn McDonald.