Langston Hughes , in full James Mercer Langston Hughes (born February 1, 1902, Joplin, Missouri, U.S.—died May 22, 1967, New York, New York), American writer who was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance and made the African American experience the subject of his writings, which ranged from poetry and plays to novels and newspaper columns.
Hughes’s parents separated soon after his birth, and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. After his grandmother’s death, he and his mother moved to half a dozen cities before reaching Cleveland, where they settled. He wrote the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” the summer after his graduation from high school in Cleveland; it was published in The Crisis in 1921 and brought him considerable attention. After attending Columbia University in New York City in 1921–22, he explored Harlem, forming a permanent attachment to what he called the “great dark city,” and worked as a steward on a freighter bound for Africa. Back in New York City from seafaring and sojourning in Europe, he met in 1924 the writers Arna Bontemps and Carl Van Vechten, with whom he would have lifelong influential friendships. Hughes won an Opportunity magazine poetry prize in 1925. That same year, Van Vechten introduced Hughes’s poetry to the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, who accepted the collection that Knopf would publish as The Weary Blues in 1926.
While working as a busboy in a hotel in Washington, D.C., in late 1925, Hughes put three of his own poems beside the plate of Vachel Lindsay in the dining room. The next day, newspapers around the country reported that Lindsay, among the most popular white poets of the day, had “discovered” an African American busboy poet, which earned Hughes broader notice. Hughes received a scholarship to, and began attending, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in early 1926. That same year, he received the Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Award, and he published “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”in The Nation, a manifesto in which he called for a