Langston Hughes

Find out more about the literary movement during the Renaissance in Black Writers Tell It on the Mountain.


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Poet, novelist, playwright, essayist




The Kennedy Center
Marco Polo
This resource was created in March 2003 by ARTSEDGE. All rights reserved.
ARTSEDGE is a project of the Education Department of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
and is a member of the MarcoPolo Partnership
Read "The Weary Blues."

Lauded as the "Poet Laureate of Harlem" in the
1920s, Langston Hughes was one of the first African Americans to earn a living solely as a writer. Hughes was known mainly for his poetry. But he also wrote plays, novels, a wealth of nonfiction pieces, and even an opera.

In his explorations of race, social justice, and African-American culture and art, Hughes' writing vividly captures the political, social, and artistic climates of Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s. After a transitory adolescence, Hughes moved to Harlem in 1926, where he worked with and befriended such artists, writers, and scholars as Aaron Douglas, Countee Cullen, and Alain Locke. Infused and inspired by the jazz and blues that surrounded him at hot spots such as the Savoy Ballroom, Hughes weaved the rhythms of contemporary music into his poems. Often his writing riffed on the energy of life in Harlem itself.

In his path-breaking poem "The Weary Blues," singled out for a literary award by Opportunity magazine in 1924, Langston Hughes combined black vernacular speech with blues rhythms, breaking from traditional literary forms. The recognition encouraged Hughes to publish his first collection of poetry, likewise entitled The Weary Blues.


back to the top


He traveled throughout the South with Zora Neale Hurston.
He met—and became friends with—fellow writer Countee Cullen at a poetry reading.
He wrote an opera with composer James P. Johnson.
He praised Bessie Smith in his essay "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain."
Patron Charlotte Mason supported him financially and emotionally.
Scholar Alain Locke solicited new work from Hughes for the Survey Graphic anthology.
His "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" influenced (and was influenced by) many creative artists.
He stayed at the rent-free 267 House.
reset to the top
menu 1
menu 2
menu 3
menu 4
menu 5
menu 6