James Mercer Langston Hughes was born (February 1st 1902-May 22, 1967) in Joplin, Missouri and was a poet, writer, novelist, playwright and columnist.
He was also one of the many artist and writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was considered to be a rebirth of African-American arts and was a cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem, New York spanning the 1920s.
“Langston Hughes was an accomplished writer in almost every form and genre, and one of the first African-Americans to earn a living from writing professionally. He captured the essential voice of jazz and the blues in his poetry, and used it to express the anguish, joy, and exhilaration of black life in America.” (Blackhistorynow)
When his parents divorced, his father left the country and his mother found herself unable to raise him while also seeking steady employment so Hughes moved in with his grandmother until her death. It was during this time that he first heard the call of the written word. After experiencing a period of loneliness, Hughes said,
“Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books – where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language.”
From 1921-2922 Hughes attended Columbia University. However, he graduated from Lincoln University in 1929, which was one of the first historically Black universities.
“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin‘ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” – Langston Hughes
Happy birthday Langston Hughes!