“I dream a world where… love will bless the earth and peace its paths adorn.” -- Langston Hughes
An artist in the truest sense of the word, Langston Hughes was quite simply a literary genius. Born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was a speaker for the simple man, a man who had no wealth or power but still had soundness of heart and virtues abundant. He was the one of the earliest innovators of the then new art form known as Jazz Poetry alongside with e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Hughes is also known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance (Francis).
Both of Hughes’ paternal great-grandmothers were African
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In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature (“Langston Hughes”). Hughes identified as 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. 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 (Patterson). 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,” Hughes once said. 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. (Rampersad). His poems are about music, politics, America, love, the blues, and dreams. No list could be inclusive enough. We often overlook the beauty of simple things. Too often we attribute artistic grandiosity to something shiny, colorful and rich, whereas I believe that the same degree of artistry and beauty can easily be found with an old tired man and his guitar after a hard day’s work.