Langston Hughes: February 1, 1902–May 22, 1967

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James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best-known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, a period, he said, when "Harlem was in vogue".

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Ancestry and childhood

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, the second child of school teacher Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston and her husband James Nathaniel Hughes (1871–1934).

Both parents were mixed race, and Langston Hughes was of African American, European American and Native American descent. He grew up in a series of Midwestern small towns.[1]

Both his paternal and maternal great-grandmothers were African American, and both his paternal and maternal great-grandfathers were white: one of Scottish and one of Jewish descent.[2]

Hughes was named after both his father and his grand-uncle, John Mercer Langston who, in 1888, became the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress from Virginia. Hughes' maternal grandmother Mary Patterson was of African American, French, English and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she first married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race. He joined the men in John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859 and died from his wounds.[2]

In 1869 the widow Mary Patterson Leary married again, into the elite, politically active Langston family. Her second husband was Charles Henry Langston, of African American, Native American, and Euro-American ancestry.[3][4] He and his younger brother John Mercer Langston worked for the abolitionist cause and helped lead the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in 1858.

Charles Langston later moved to Kansas where he was active as an educator and activist for voting and rights for African Americans.[3] Charles and Mary's daughter Caroline Mercer Langston was the mother of Langston Hughes.[5]

Hughes' father left his family and later divorced Carrie. He went to Cuba, and then Mexico, seeking to escape the enduring racism in the United States.[6]

After the separation of his parents, while his mother travelled seeking employment, young Langston was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother Mary Patterson Langston in Lawrence, Kansas. Through the black American oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled in the young Langston Hughes a lasting sense of racial pride.[7][8][9]

He spent most of childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. After the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends, James and Mary Reed, for two years. Because of the unstable early life, his childhood was not an entirely happy one, but it strongly influenced the poet he would become. Later, Hughes lived again with his mother Carrie in Lincoln, Illinois, who had remarried when he was still an adolescent, and eventually in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended high school. The Hughes' home in Cleveland was sold in foreclosure in 1918; the 2.5-story, wood-frame house on the city's east side was sold at a sheriff's auction in February for $16,667.

While in grammar school in Lincoln, Illinois, Hughes was elected class poet. Hughes stated in retrospect he thought it was because of the stereotype that African Americans have rhythm.[10]

"I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everyone knows, except us, that all Negroes have rhythm, so they elected me as class poet."[11]

During high school in Cleveland, Ohio, he wrote for the school newspaper, edited the yearbook, and began to write his first short stories, poetry, and dramatic plays. His first piece of jazz poetry, "When Sue Wears Red", was written while he was in high school. It was during this time that he discovered his love of books. From this early period in his life, Hughes would cite as influences on his poetry the American poets Paul Laurence Dunbar and Carl Sandburg.

Relationship with father

Hughes had a very poor relationship with his father. He lived with his father in Mexico for a brief period in 1919. Upon graduating from high school in June 1920, Hughes returned to Mexico to live with his father, hoping to convince him to support Langston's plan to attend Columbia University. Hughes later said that, prior to arriving in Mexico: "I had been thinking about my father and his strange dislike of his own people. I didn't understand it, because I was a Negro, and I liked Negroes very much."[12][13]

Initially, his father had hoped for Hughes to attend a university abroad, and to study for a career in engineering. On these grounds, he was willing to provide financial assistance to his son but did not support his desire to be a writer. Eventually, Hughes and his father came to a compromise: Hughes would study engineering, so long as he could attend Columbia. His tuition provided, Hughes left his father after more than a year. While at Columbia in 1921, Hughes managed to maintain a B+ grade average. He left in 1922 because of racial prejudice, and his interests revolved more around the neighborhood of Harlem than his studies, though he continued writing poetry. .[14]


Hughes worked various odd jobs, before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe.[15]

In Europe, Hughes left the S.S. Malone for a temporary stay in Paris.

During his time in England in the early 1920s, Hughes became part of the black expatriate community. In November 1924, Hughes returned to the U. S. to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. Hughes worked at various odd jobs before gaining a white-collar job in 1925 as a personal assistant to the historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

As the work demands limited his time for writing, Hughes quit the position to work as a busboy in a hotel. There he encountered the poet Vachel Lindsay, with whom he shared some poems. Impressed with the poems, Lindsay publicized his discovery of a new black poet. By this time, Hughes' earlier work had been published in magazines and was about to be collected into his first book of poetry.

The following year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He joined the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a black fraternal organization founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C.[16][17]

Thurgood Marshall, who later became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was an alumnus and classmate of Langston Hughes during his undergraduate studies at Lincoln University.

After Hughes earned a B.A. degree from Lincoln University in 1929, he returned to New York. Except for travels to the Soviet Union and parts of the Caribbean, Hughes lived in Harlem as his primary home for the remainder of his life.


Some academics and biographers today believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman. Hughes cited Whitman as an influence on his poetry.

Hughes' story "Blessed Assurance" deals with a father's anger over his son's effeminacy and "queerness".[18][18][19][20][21][22][23][24] The story is discussed by Charles I. Nero in "Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures", in Martin Duberman, editor, Re/Membering Langston (New York University Press, 1997), p. 192; Christa A.B. Schwarz, Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, in a chapter on "Langston Hughes: A "true 'people's poet" (Indiana University Press, 2003), pages 68–88;

To retain the respect and support of black churches and organizations and avoid exacerbating his precarious financial situation, Hughes remained closeted.[1]

Arnold Rampersad, the primary biographer of Hughes, determined that Hughes exhibited a preference for other African-American men in his work and life.[26]

However, Rampersad, in his biography, denies Hughes' homosexuality.[27]

Rampersad concludes that Hughes was probably asexual and passive in his sexual relationships. He did, however show a respect and love for his fellow black man (and woman).

Other scholars argue for Hughes' homosexuality: his love of black men is evidenced in a number of reported unpublished poems to an alleged black male lover.[28] Sandra West refers to Hughes' "apparent love for black men as evidenced through a series of unpublished poems he wrote to a black male lover named 'Beauty'." (Sandra L. West. "Langston Hughes", Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, edited by Aberjhani & Sandra West, Checkmark Press, ISBN 0-8160-4540-2West, 2003, p. 162.

For an overview of the public debate on Hughes’s homosexuality and a queer reading of homoeroticism in his writings, see Juda Bennett, “Multiple Passings and the Double Death of Langston Hughes,” Biography 23,4 (Fall 2000): 670-689. See also: Charles I. Nero in "Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures", in Martin Duberman, editor, Re/Membering Langston (New York University Press, 1997), p. 192; Christa A.B. Schwarz, Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, in a chapter on "Langston Hughes: A "true 'people's poet" (Indiana University Press, 2003), pages 68–88;


On May 22, 1967, Hughes died from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer, at the age of 65. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer leading to the auditorium named for him within the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.[29]

The design on the floor covering his cremated remains is an African cosmogram titled Rivers. The title is taken from his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Within the center of the cosmogram, above his ashes, is the line: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers".


First published in The Crisis in 1921, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", which became Hughes' signature poem, was collected in his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926).[30]

Hughes' life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, alongside those of his contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas. Except for McKay, they worked together also to create the short-lived magazine Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists.

Hughes and his contemporaries had different goals and aspirations than the black middle class. They criticized men who were known as the midwives of the Harlem Renaissance: W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Alain LeRoy Locke, as being overly accommodating and assimilating eurocentric values and culture for social equality. Hughes and his fellows tried to depict the "low-life" in their art, that is, the real lives of blacks in the lower social-economic strata. They criticized the divisions and prejudices based on skin color within the black community.[32]

Hughes wrote what would be considered the manifesto published in The Nation in 1926, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain".

The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express

our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.

If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not,

it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too.

The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people

are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure

doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow,

strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain

free within ourselves.

Hughes was unashamedly black at a time when blackness was démodé. He stressed the theme of "black is beautiful" as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths.[33]

His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of the general American experience.[13][34]

His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Permeating his work is pride in the African-American identity and its diverse culture. "My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind,"[35] Hughes is quoted as saying.

He confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded African America’s image of itself; a “people’s poet” who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality.[36] An expression of this is the poem "My People":[37]

The night is beautiful,

So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,

So the eyes of my people

Beautiful, also, is the sun.

Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Hughes stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism devoid of self-hate that united people of African descent and Africa across the globe and encouraged pride in their diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic. Hughes was one of the few black writers of any consequence to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists.[38]

His African-American race consciousness and cultural nationalism would influence many foreign black writers, such as Jacques Roumain, Nicolás Guillén, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire. Along with the works of Senghor, Césaire, and other French-speaking writers of Africa and of African descent from the Caribbean, such as René Maran from Martinique and Léon Damas from French Guiana in South America, the works of Hughes helped to inspire the Négritude movement in France. A radical black self-examination was emphasized in the face of European colonialism.[39][40] In addition to his example in social attitudes, Hughes had an important technical influence by his emphasis on folk and jazz rhythms as the basis of his poetry of racial pride.[41]

In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature.[42]

The protagonist of the story is a boy named Sandy, whose family must deal with a variety of struggles due to their race and class, in addition to relating to one another. Hughes's first collection of short stories was published in 1934 with The Ways of White Folks.[43][44]

These stories are a series of vignettes revealing the humorous and tragic interactions between whites and blacks. Overall, they are marked by a general pessimism about race relations, as well as a sardonic realism.[45] He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935.

The same year that Hughes established his theater troupe in Los Angeles, he realized an ambition related to films by co-writing the screenplay for Way Down South.[46] Hughes believed his failure to gain more work in the lucrative movie trade was due to racial discrimination within the industry.

In 1943, Hughes began publishing stories about a character he called "Jesse B. Semple, often referred to and spelled "Simple", the everyday black man in Harlem who offered musings on topical issues of the day. Hughes seldom responded to requests to teach at colleges.

In 1947, Hughes taught at Atlanta University.

Hughes, in 1949, spent three months at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools as a visiting lecturer.

He wrote novels, short stories, plays, poetry, operas, essays, works for children, and, with the encouragement of his best friend and writer, Arna Bontemps, and patron and friend, Carl Van Vechten, two autobiographies, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, as well as translating several works of literature into English.

During the mid−1950s and −1960s, Hughes' popularity among the younger generation of black writers varied as his reputation increased worldwide. With the gradual advancement toward racial integration, many black writers considered his writings of black pride and its corresponding subject matter out of date. They considered him a racial chauvinist.[47]

He found such writers, for instance, James Baldwin, lacking in such pride, overintellectual in their work, and occasionally vulgar.[48][49][50]

Hughes wanted young black writers to be objective about their race, but not to scorn it or flee it.[51]

He understood the main points of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, but believed that some of the younger black writers who supported it were too angry in their work. Hughes's work Panther and the Lash, posthumously published in 1967, was intended to show solidarity with these writers, but with more skill and devoid of the most virulent anger and terse racial chauvinism some showed toward whites.[52][53]

Hughes continued to have admirers among the larger younger generation of black writers, whom he often helped by offering advice and introducing them to other influential persons in the literature and publishing communities. This latter group, including Alice Walker, whom Hughes discovered, looked upon Hughes as a hero and an example to be emulated in degrees and tones within their own work. One of these young black writers observed of Hughes, "Langston set a tone, a standard of brotherhood and friendship and cooperation, for all of us to follow. You never got from him, 'I am the Negro writer,' but only 'I am a Negro writer.' He never stopped thinking about the rest of us."[54]

Political views

Hughes, like many black writers and artists of his time, was drawn to the promise of Communism as an alternative to a segregated America. Many of his lesser-known political writings have been collected in two volumes published by the University of Missouri Press and reflect his attraction to Communism. An example is the poem "A New Song".[55]

In 1932, Hughes became part of a group of blacks who went to the Soviet Union to make a film depicting the plight of African Americans in the United States. The film was never made, but Hughes was given the opportunity to travel extensively through the Soviet Union and to the Soviet-controlled regions in Central Asia, the latter parts usually closed to Westerners. While there, he met African-American Robert Robinson, living in Moscow and unable to leave. In Turkmenistan, Hughes met and befriended the Hungarian polymath Arthur Koestler. Hughes also managed to travel to China and Japan before returning to the States.

Hughes' poetry was frequently published in the CPUSA newspaper and he was involved in initiatives supported by Communist organizations, such as the drive to free the Scottsboro Boys. Partly as a show of support for the Republican faction during the Spanish Civil War, in 1937 Hughes traveled to Spain[56] as a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American and other various African-American newspapers.

Hughes was also involved in other Communist-led organizations like the John Reed Clubs and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. He was more of a sympathizer than an active participant. He signed a statement in 1938 supporting Joseph Stalin's purges and joined the American Peace Mobilization in 1940 working to keep the U.S. from participating in World War II.[57]

Hughes initially did not favor black American involvement in the war because of the persistence of discriminatory U.S. Jim Crow laws existing while blacks were encouraged to fight against Fascism and the Axis powers. He came to support the war effort and black American involvement in it after deciding that blacks would also be contributing to their struggle for civil rights at home.[58]

Hughes was accused of being a Communist by many on the political right, but he always denied it. When asked why he never joined the Communist Party, he wrote "it was based on strict discipline and the acceptance of directives that I, as a writer, did not wish to accept."

In 1953, he was called before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Following his appearance, he distanced himself from Communism and was subsequently rebuked by some who had previously supported him on the Radical Left. Over time, Hughes would distance himself from his most radical poems. In 1959 his collection of Selected Poems was published. He excluded his most controversial work from this group of poems.

Stage and film depictions

Hughes' life has been depicted in many stage and film productions. Hannibal of the Alps by Michael Dinwiddie and Paper Armor by Eisa Davis are plays by African-American playwrights which deal with Hughes' sexuality.

In the 1989 film, Looking for Langston, British filmmaker Isaac Julien claimed Hughes as a black gay icon — Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had historically been ignored or downplayed. In the film Get on the Bus, directed by Spike Lee, a black gay character, played by Isaiah Washington, invokes the name of Hughes and punches a homophobic character while commenting, "This is for James Baldwin and Langston Hughes."

Film portrayals of Hughes include Gary LeRoi Gray's role as a teenage Hughes in the 2003 short subject film Salvation (based on a portion of his autobiography The Big Sea) and Daniel Sunjata as Hughes in the 2004 film Brother to Brother. Hughes' Dream Harlem, a documentary by Jamal Joseph, examines Hughes' works and environment.

Literary archives

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University holds the Langston Hughes papers (1862–1980) and the Langston Hughes collection (1924–1969) containing letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, artworks, and objects that document the life of Hughes. The Langston Hughes Memorial Library on the campus of Lincoln University, as well as at the James Weldon Johnson Collection within the Yale University also hold archives of Hughes' work.[citation needed].

Honors and awards

1943, Lincoln University awarded Hughes an honorary Litt.D.

1960, the NAACP awarded Hughes the Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievements by an African American.

1961 National Institute of Arts and Letters.[59]

1963 Howard University awarded Hughes an honorary doctorate.

1973, the first Langston Hughes Medal was awarded by the City College of New York.

1979, Langston Hughes Middle School was created in Reston, Virginia.

1981, New York City Landmark status was given to the Harlem home of Langston Hughes at 20 East 127th Street (40°48′26.32″N 73°56′25.54″W) by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and 127th St. was renamed Langston Hughes Place.[60]

2002 The United States Postal Service added the image of Langston Hughes to its Black Heritage series of postage stamps.

2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Langston Hughes on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[61]


Poetry collections

The Weary Blues, Knopf, 1926

Fine Clothes to the Jew, Knopf, 1927

The Negro Mother and Other Dramatic Recitations, 1931

Dear Lovely Death, 1931

The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, Knopf, 1932

Scottsboro Limited: Four Poems and a Play, Golden Stair Press, N.Y., 1932

Let America Be America Again, 1938

Shakespeare in Harlem, Knopf, 1942

Freedom's Plow, 1943

Fields of Wonder, Knopf, 1947

One-Way Ticket, 1949

Montage of a Dream Deferred, Holt, 1951

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, 1958

Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz, Hill & Wang, 1961

The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times, 1967

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, Knopf, 1994

Novels and short story collections

Not Without Laughter. Knopf, 1930

The Ways of White Folks. Knopf, 1934

Simple Speaks His Mind. 1950

Laughing to Keep from Crying, Holt, 1952

Simple Takes a Wife. 1953

Sweet Flypaper of Life, photographs by Roy DeCarava. 1955

Tambourines to Glory 1958

The Best of Simple. 1961

Simple's Uncle Sam. 1965

Something in Common and Other Stories. Hill & Wang, 1963

Short Stories of Langston Hughes. Hill & Wang, 1996

Non-fiction books

The Big Sea. New York: Knopf, 1940

Famous American Negroes. 1954

I Wonder as I Wander. New York: Rinehart & Co., 1956

A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, with Milton Meltzer. 1956

Famous Negro Heroes of America. 1958

Fight for Freedom: The Story of the NAACP. 1962

Major plays by Hughes

Mule Bone, with Zora Neale Hurston. 1931

Mulatto. 1935 (renamed The Barrier, an opera, in 1950)

Troubled Island, with William Grant Still. 1936

Little Ham. 1936

Emperor of Haiti. 1936

Don't You Want to be Free? 1938

Street Scene, contributed lyrics. 1947

Tambourines to glory. 1956

Simply Heavenly. 1957

Black Nativity. 1961

Five Plays by Langston Hughes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.

Jericho-Jim Crow. 1964

Works for children

Popo and Fifina, with Arna Bontemps. 1932

The First Book of the Negroes. 1952

The First Book of Jazz. 1954

Marian Anderson: Famous Concert Singer. with Steven C. Tracy 1954

The First Book of Rhythms. 1954

The First Book of the West Indies. 1956

First Book of Africa. 1964

Further reading

The Langston Hughes Reader. New York: Braziller, 1958.

Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes. Lawrence Hill, 1973.

The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2001.

"My Adventures as a Social Poet" by Langston Hughes. Essay. Phylon 3rd Quarter 1947

"The Negro Artist and The Racial Mountain" by Langston Hughes. Article in The Nation, 23 June 1926


1. "African-Native American Scholars". African-Native American Scholars. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-30.

2. a b Faith Berry, Langston Hughes, Before and Beyond Harlem, Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983; reprint, Citadel Press, 1992, p. 1, accessdate 24 July 2010

3. a b Richard B. Sheridan, "Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas", Kansas State History, Winter 1999, accessed 15 Dec 2008

4. Laurie F. Leach, Langston Hughes: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, pp.2–4

5. William and Aimee Lee Cheek, "John Mercer Langston: Principle and Politics", in Leon F. Litwack and August Meier, eds., Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century, University of Illinois Press, 1991, pp. 106–111

6. West, Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, 2003, p.160

7. Hughes recalled his maternal grandmother’s stories: "Through my grandmother’s stories life always moved, moved heroically toward an end. Nobody ever cried in my grandmother’s stories. They worked, schemed, or fought. But no crying." Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p.620

8. The poem "Aunt Sues’s Stories" (1921) is an oblique tribute to his grandmother and his loving Auntie Mary Reed. Rampersad, vol.1, 1986, p. 43

9. Imbued by his grandmother with a duty to help his race, Langston Hughes identified with neglected and downtrodden blacks all his life, and glorified them in his work. Brooks, Gwendolyn, (Oct. 12, 1986). "The Darker Brother". The New York Times

10. Langston Hughes Reads his poetry with commentary, audiotape from Caedmon Audio

11. "Langston Hughes, Writer, 4, Dead", (May 23, 1967). The New York Times

12. Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (1940), pp. 54–56

13. a b Gwendolyn Brooks, Review: The Darker Brother, The New York Times, 12 October 1986. Quote: And the father, Hughes said, "hated Negroes. I think he hated himself, too, for being a Negro. He disliked all of his family because they were Negroes." James Hughes was tightfisted, uncharitable, cold.

14. Rampersad. vol.1, 1986, p.56

15. Poem or To. F.S. first appeared in The Crisis in May 1925, and was reprinted in The Weary Blues and The Dream Keeper. Hughes never publicly identified F.S., but it is conjectured he was Ferdinand Smith, a merchant seaman whom the poet first met in New York in the early 1920s. Nine years older than Hughes, Smith first influenced the poet to go to sea. Born in Jamaica in 1893, Smith spent most of his life as a ship steward and political activist at sea—and later in New York as a resident of Harlem. Smith was deported back to Jamaica for alleged Communist activities and illegal alien status in 1951. Hughes corresponded with Smith up until 1961, when Smith died. Berry, p.347

16. In 1926, a patron of Hughes, Amy Spingarn, wife of Joel Elias Spingarn who was president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), provided the funds ($300) for him to attend Lincoln University. Rampersad.vol.1, 1986,p.122-23

17. In November 1927, Charlotte Osgood Mason, (“Godmother” as she liked to be called), became Hughes' major patron. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 156

18. a b Nero, Charles I. (1997). "Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures", In Martin Duberman (Ed.), Re/Membering Langston, p. 192. New York University Press

19. Yale Symposium, Was Langston Gay? Commemorating the 100th Birthday of Hughes in 2002. is very interested in knowing the details of this event. At the 2002 Yale Symposium Arnold Rampersad presented a paper titled “Was Langston Hughes Gay?” For an overview of the public debate on Hughes’s homosexuality and a queer reading of homoeroticism in his writings, see Juda Bennett, “Multiple Passings and the Double Death of Langston Hughes,” Biography 23,4 (Fall 2000): 670-689.

20. Schwarz, pp.68–88

21. Although Hughes was extremely closeted, some of his poems may hint at homosexuality. These include: "Joy," "Desire", "Cafe: 3 A.M.," "Waterfront Streets", "Young Sailor", "Trumpet Player", "Tell Me", "F.S." and some poems in Montage of a Dream Deferred. Langston Hughes page [1]. Retrieved January 10, 2007.

22. ...Cafe 3 A.M. was against gay bashing by police, and Poem for F.S. which was about his friend Ferdinand Smith. Nero, Charles I. (1999), p. 500

23. Jean Blackwell Hutson, former chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, said, “He was always eluding marriage. He said marriage and career didn’t work [...] It wasn’t until his later years that I became convinced he was homosexual.” Hutson & Nelson. Essence magazine, February 1992. p.96

24. "Though there were infrequent and half-hearted affairs with women, most people considered Hughes asexual, insistent on a skittish, carefree 'innocence.' In fact, he was a closeted homosexual." McClatchy, J.D. (2002).Langston Hughes: Voice of the Poet. New York: Random House Audio, p.12

25. Aldrich, (2001), p. 200

26. "Referring to men of African descent, Rampersad writes "...Hughes found some young men, especially dark-skinned men, appealing and sexually fascinating. (Both in his various artistic representations, in fiction especially, and in his life, he appears to have found young white men of little sexual appeal.) Virile young men of very dark complexion fascinated him. Rampersad, vol. 2, 1988, p. 336

27. "His fatalism was well placed. Under such pressure, Hughes' sexual desire, such as it was, became not so much sublimated as vaporized. He governed his sexual desires to an extent rare in a normal adult male; whether his appetite was normal and adult is impossible to say. He understood, however, that Cullen and Locke offered him nothing he wanted, or nothing that promised much for him or his poetry. If certain of his responses to Locke seemed like teasing (a habit Hughes would never quite lose with women, or, perhaps, men) they were not therefore necessarily signs of sexual desire; more likely, they showed the lack of it. Nor should one infer quickly that Hughes was held back by a greater fear of public exposure as a homosexual than his friends had; of the three men, he was the only one ready, indeed eager, to be perceived as disreputable." "Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes, Vol I. p 69

28. Sandra West states: Hughes' "apparent love for black men as evidenced through a series of unpublished poems he wrote to a black male lover named 'Beauty'." West, 2003, p. 162

29. Whitaker, Charles. Ebony magazine In Langston Hughes:100th birthday celebration of the poet of Black America. April 2002.

30. "The Negro Speaks of Rivers: First published in Crisis (June 1921), p. 17. Included in The New Negro (1925), The Weary Blues, Langston Hughes Reader, and Selected Poems. In The Weary Blues, the poem is dedicated to W. E. B. Du Bois. The dedication does not appear in later printings of the poem. Hughes' first and last published poems appeared in The Crisis; more of his poems were published in The Crisis than in any other journal. Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p. 23 & p. 620, Knopf

31. "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Audio file, Hughes reading. Poem information from

32. Hughes "disdained the rigid class and color differences the 'best people' drew between themselves and Afro-Americans of darker complexion, of smaller means and lesser formal education. Berry, 1983 & 1992, p. 60

33. "....but his tastes and selectivity were not always accurate, and pressures to survive as a black writer in a white society (and it was a miracle that he did for so long) extracted an enormous creative toll. Nevertheless, Hughes, more than any other black poet or writer, recorded faithfully the nuances of black life and its frustrations." Patterson, Lindsay (June 29, 1969). "Langston Hughes—The Most Abused Poet in America?", The New York Times

34. Rampesad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p.3

35. Rampersad,1988,vol.2,p.418

36. West. 2003, p.162

37. "My People" First published as Poem in Crisis (Oct. 1923), p. 162, and The Weary Blues (1926). The title "My People" was collected in The Dream Keeper (1932) and the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1959). Rampersad, Arnold & Roessel, David (2002). In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. p. 36 & p. 623, Knopt.

38. Rampersad. vol.2, 1988, p. 297

39. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 91

40. Mercer Cook, African American scholar of French culture: "His (Langston Hughes) work had a lot to do with the famous concept of Négritude, of black soul and feeling, that they were beginning to develop." Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 343

41. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 343

42. Charlotte Mason generously supported Hughes for two years. She supervised his writing his first novel, Not Without Laughter (1930). Her patronage of Hughes ended about the time the novel appeared. Rampersad. "Langston Hughes", in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p. 207

43. Noel Sullivan, after working out an agreement with Hughes, became a patron for him in 1933. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 277. On Sullivan see: Noel Sullivan Papers and the Allan Berube Papers, GLBT Historical Society, San Francisco.

44. Sullivan provided Hughes with the opportunity to complete The Ways of White Folks (1934) in Carmel, California. Hughes stayed a year in a cottage Sullivan provided for him to work in. Rampersad. Langston Hughes. In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p. 207

45. Rampersad. “Langston Hughes.” In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature.2001.p.207

46. Co-written with Clarence Muse, African American Hollywood actor and musician. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, pp. 366-69

47. Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 207

48. Langston’s misgivings about the new black writing were because of its emphasis on black criminality and frequent use of profanity. Rampersad, vol. 2, p. 207

49. Hughes said, "There are millions of blacks who never murder anyone, or rape or get raped or want to rape, who never lust after white bodies, or cringe before white stupidity, or Uncle Tom, or go crazy with race, or off-balance with frustration." Rampersad, p. 119, vol. 2

50. Langston eagerly looked to the day when the gifted young writers of his race would go beyond the clamor of civil rights and integration and take a genuine pride in being black... he found this latter quality starkly absent in even the best of them... Rampersad, vol. 2, p. 310

51. Rampersad. vol. 2, 1988, p. 297

52. "As for whites in general, Hughes did not like them...He felt he had been exploited and humiliated by them." Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 338

53. Hughes's advice on how to deal with racists was "'Always be polite to over-polite. Kill them with kindness.' But, he insisted on recognizing that all whites are not racist, and definitely enjoyed the company of those who sought him out in friendship and with respect." Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 368

54. Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 409

55. The end of "A New Song" was substantially changed when it was included in A New Song (New York: International Workers Order, 1938).

56. "Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives". Retrieved 2010-07-24.

57. Langston Hughes (2001), Fight for Freedom and Other Writings. p. 9, University of Missouri Press

58. Irma Cayton, African American, said "He had told me that it wasn't our war, it wasn't our business, there was too much Jim Crow. But he had changed his mind about all that." Rampersad,1988,vol.2,p.85

59. "h2g2 - Langston Hughes — Poet". BBC. Retrieved 2010-07-24.

60. Jean Carlson (2007).[2]. Retrieved June 30, 2007.

61. Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.


Aldrich, Robert (2001). Who's Who in Gay & Lesbian History. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22974-X Bernard, Emily (2001). Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925–1964. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45113-7

Bennett, Juda. “Multiple Passings and the Double Death of Langston Hughes,” Biography 23,4 (Fall 2000): 670-689.

overview of the public debate on Hughes’s homosexuality and a queer reading of homoeroticism in his writings.

Berry, Faith (1983.1992,). Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem. In On the Cross of the South, p. 150; & Zero Hour, p. 185–186. Citadel Press ISBN 0-517-14769-6

Hughes, Langston (2001). Fight for Freedom and Other Writings on Civil Rights (Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Vol 10). In Christopher C. DeSantis (Ed). Introduction, p. 9. University of Missouri Press ISBN 0-8262-1371-5

Hutson, Jean Blackwell; & Nelson, Jill (February 1992). "Remembering Langston". Essence magazine, p. 96. Joyce, Joyce A. (2004). A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes. In Steven C. Tracy (Ed.), Hughes and Twentieth-Century Genderracial Issues, p. 136. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-514434-1

Nero, Charles I. (1997). Re/Membering Langston: Homphobic Textuality and Arnold Rampersad's Life of Langston Hughes. In Martin Duberman (Ed.), Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures, p. 192. New York University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-8147-1884-1

Nero, Charles I. (1999).Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics. In Larry P. Gross & James D. Woods (Eds.), In Free Speech or Hate Speech: Pornography and its Means of Production, p. 500. Columbia University Press ISBN 0-231-10447-2

Nichols, Charles H. (1980). Arna Bontempts-Langston Hughes Letters, 1925–1967. Dodd, Mead & Company. ISBN 0-396-07687-4

Ostrom, Hans (1993). Langston Hughes: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-8343-1

Ostrom, Hans (2002). A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002. ISBN 0-313-30392-4

Rampersad, Arnold (1986). The Life of Langston Hughes Volume 1: I, Too, Sing America. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-514642-5

Rampersad, Arnold (1988). The Life of Langston Hughes Volume 2: I Dream A World. In Ask Your Mama!, p. 336. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-514643-3

Rampersand, Arnold. "Was Langston Hughes Gay?" Paper delivered at the Yale Symposium, Was Langston Gay? Commemorating the 100th birthday of Hughes in 2002. is very interested in knowing the details of this event.

Schwarz, Christa A.B. (2003). Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance. In Langston Hughes: A "true 'people's poet",pp. 68–88. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-21607-9

West, Sandra L. (2003). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. In Aberjhani & Sandra West (Ed.), Langston Hughes, p. 162. Checkmark Press ISBN 0-8160-4540-2

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Langston Hughes

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Langston Hughes

Yale Lecture on Langston Hughes audio, video and full transcripts from Open Yale Courses


Langston Hughes on With poems, related essays, and links

Profile and poems written and audio at

Profile at Modern American Poetry

Beinecke Library, Yale. "Langston Hughes at 100".

FBI profile

PBS profile

Profile at Library of Congress

Langston Hughes in Lawrence, Kansas. Photographs and biographical resources

Archive and works

Langston Hughes Papers. James Weldon Johnson Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Langston Hughes Collection. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beineicke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Langston Hughes Papers Digital collection from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. Resources at Library of Congress including audio.

"My Adventures as a Social Poet" by Langston Hughes. Essay. Phylon 3rd Quarter 1947

"The Negro Artist and The Racial Mountain" by Langston Hughes. Article in The Nation, 23 June 1926 Representative Poetry Online, University of Toronto

[Category:African American dramatists and playwrights]]

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, accessed February 15, 2011 from: Wikipedia: Langston Hughes

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  1. Aldrich, (2001), p. 200.