Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes!
Humanistic Poet, Novelist, Memoirist, Playwright, Harlem Renaissance Leader
1 February 1902 - 22 May 1967
The BlackQuaker Project celebrates the birthday of renowned writer and Harlem Renaissance Leader Langston Hughes. Born in Missouri and raised primarily in Kansas, Hughes spent his early years traveling throughout West Africa and Europe as a merchant marine. He would first gain the attention of New York publishers (such The Crisis edited by W. E. B. Du Bois) when attending Columbia University between 1921 and 1922. Releasing works in local publications, he soon became a permanent artistic and intellectual fixture of the emerging Harlem Renaissance. Throughout his life Hughes published numerous acclaimed poems, plays, novels, two autobiographies, and helped pioneer the jazz poetry style. Though the poet permanently settled in New York in 1929 after graduating from Lincoln University, he would still travel internationally as both a writer and reporter. In 1932 Hughes traveled to the Soviet Union, along with 22 African American artists, filmmakers, and actors to produce a film about African American life in southern states. Though the film was cancelled, Hughes remained in the USSR for a short time where he felt unrestricted by discrimination. He traveled on the Moscow-Tashkent express train to Central Asia where he witnessed the ethnic diversity of the USSR’s southern regions. Hughes would later find himself persecuted for his associations with the USSR and his revolutionary poetry. In 1937 he covered the Spanish Civil War as a reporter for the Baltimore Afro-American, writing on topics untouched by the white mainstream Western press such as the participation and leadership of African American anti-fascists in the war. During this time, Hughes would cross paths with Spain’s and Cuba’s outstanding Afro-descendant poets Federico Garcia Lorca and Nicolás Guillén. As a sensitive Pan-Africanist, humanist, and anti-imperialist, Hughes would continue to the end of his life to write on African American and African efforts at cultural, political, economic, and psychological freedom. Please feel free to respond with comments and questions about Langston Hughes.