James Langston Hughes


One of the original writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. In 1921 he began studies at Columbia University but left after a year, going off to work on a freighter and traveling that way to Africa, then living in Paris and Rome. Returning to the U.S., he graduated from Lincoln University in 1926, publishing his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, that same year. Also in 1926, Hughes published a critical essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," which became a defining piece for the Harlem Renaissance movement. During the next four decades he continued to write in a number of forms--novels, poetry, short stories, plays, autobiography, and nonfiction. In 1942 he began a column in a Chicago newspaper that introduced his character, "Simple," an African American Everyman who wittily comments on the ironies besetting black people's lives. He eventually published five volumes of his "Simple Stories." Amazingly prolific, admirably versatile, and a man capable of hearty humor as well as bitter criticism, he fell in and out of favor with the public, but the best of his work promises to survive.