Life and Work of Langston Hughes Essay

1980 Words 8 Pages
Life and Work of Langston Hughes

Early Years

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1, 1902, to James Nathaniel Hughes, a lawyer and businessman, and Carrie Mercer (Langston) Hughes, a teacher. The couple separated shortly thereafter. James Hughes was, by his son’s account, a cold man who hated blacks (and hated himself for being one), feeling that most of them deserved their ill fortune because of what he considered their ignorance and laziness. Langston’s youthful visits to him there, although sometimes for extended periods, were strained and painful. He attended Columbia University in 1921-22, and when he died he, left everything to three elderly women who had cared for him in his last illness,
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For a time, he worked as an assistant to the distinguished black historian Dr. Carter A. Woodson, but he found the tedious research tasks disagreeable, and he was angered and offended by the harsh, avert segregation of life in the nation’s capital. He also began to make the acquaintance of writers and intellectuals associated with the Harlem Renaissance, the extraordinary flourishing of black arts and culture in the 1920’s. He won prizes in poetry contests sponsored by the black journals Opportunity and The Crisis, and also had poems accepted by Vanity, a leading mainstream journal of the arts. In May 1925, Opportunity held a dinner for its award winners, where Hughes was sought out by Carl Van Vechten, whom he had met the previous year. He was a photographer who had interested himself in the Harlem Renaissance, asked recommend to his own publisher. Less than three weeks later, The Weary Blues was accepted for publication by the prestigious New York firm of Alfred A. Knopf. While waiting for the book’s publication, Hughes was working as a busboy at Washington’s Ward man Park Hotel, where, while serving the poet Vachel Lindsay and his wife at dinner, he left several of his own poems on the table. Lindsay read them that evening to a large audience at his poetry reading, and the story of his “discovery” (he was unaware that Hughes had already published widely in magazines and had a book in press, although he accepted the discovery of these
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