DCBigPappa's Blog

Politics & Pop Culture from a homocon.

Black History Month: Langston Hughes


James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist.  He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry and is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, and was raised in Lawrence, Kansas.  He served as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe.

In 1926, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  He joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.  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.

Hughes’s life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, 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.

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 in the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. It is the entrance to an auditorium named for him.

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