The Life and Legacy of Langston Hughes

March 24, 2011
“Life is for the living. Death is for the dead. Let life be like music. And death a note unsaid.” ~ Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes is known as a poet of rhythm and music. As an African American, he wrote much about the culture and experiences of his race. Although he suffered financially, Hughes published many works that later became very famous. After overcoming a difficult childhood, Langston began writing poetry in high school. He undoubtedly left his mark on the art and culture of America.

On February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, Caroline Mercer Langston gave birth to a boy who she and her husband named Langston Hughes. His parents divorced when he was a small child and his father, James Nathaniel Hughes, moved to Mexico. Langston lived with his grandmother until he turned 13. After Langston’s grandmother passed away, he moved back in with his mother in Illinois and went to high school. They later moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he began writing poetry. Langston’s peers and teachers recognized his writing talent and Langston had many of his writings published in the school magazine. He eventually joined the staff of the magazine. During this time, an English teacher introduced Langston to the writings of great poets like Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg. They significantly influenced his writing.

After high school, Langston moved to Mexico and lived there for a year. Later, he studied a year at Columbia College. Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, was a classmate of Langston Hughes. After finishing college at Lincoln University, Hughes traveled to Africa and Europe as a seaman. “In November of 1924, Hughes moved to Washington D.C. and published his first book, “The Weary Blues,” in 1926. Hughes’ first novel, “Not Without Laughter,” won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature.” (Langston Hughes, Eventually, Hughes had enough money to buy a house in Harlem, which was his dream.

Interestingly, Langston Hughes often integrated the rhythms of African American music, especially the blues and jazz, into his poetry; something quite unique during his time. Hughes also wrote plays and short stories and carried with him a sense of racial pride, often depicting the life of African Americans in his writing. Langston loved music poetry, and the culture of the African American people. His life and writing enormously influenced the Harlem Renaissance. Sadly, on May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes passed away at age sixty-five from complications of cancer and was buried in Harlem New York.

Langton Hughes’ funeral seemed fitting for one who so impacted the culture of America. Harlem renamed the street where he resided in his honor and made his house a landmark. “Langston Hughes received nine honors and awards during his lifetime. He published sixteen poetry collections, eleven short stories, six nonfiction books, twelve plays, and seven works for children.” (Langston Hughes, Wikipedia) His memory and legacy shall forever live on in the hearts of Americans. His epitaph fittingly reads, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” The life of Langston Hughes truly was like music and for many Americans, his death shall remain a note unsaid.


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

~Langston Hughes


“Langston Hughes.” 14 March, 2010.

“Langston Hughes.” Wikipedia. 14 March, 2010.

“Langston Hughes Biography.” 14 March, 2010

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Sakura said...
Sept. 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm
This was really helpful. Thanks I think I'll do a essay about him for my school.
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