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Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, Langston Hughes lived through a very lonely and unhappy childhood. Abandoned by his father's immigration to Mexico, Langston and his mother moved in with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas, when he was only a child. In 1915, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Hughes began publishing short stories and poems in the high-school magazine. Most of his works reflected his concerns with racial equality and social justice.

After Hughes graduated from high school, he spent a year in Mexico, a year at Columbia University, and travelled to Africa and Europe. Then in 1924, he moved to Harlem, New York. There, his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He later finished his college educatin at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

In 1927, Hughes' second volume of poetry, "Fine Clothes to the Jew," was published, and by 1929, he had established himself as one of the most prominent black poets of the Harlem Renaissence. His poetry was original in its honest and colorful portrayal of African American life.

Then the Great Depression took hold of the United States. During the early 1930s, Hughes had turned sharply toward the radicalism of the left. He began to write for Communist journals and work for radical causes. He continued to turn to the left, and even toured through the Soviet Union, where his radical writings and ideals were celebrated.

After serving briefly as a war correspondant for Spain in 1938, Hughes returned to the United States and abandoned his radical ways. He founded the Harlem Suitcase Theatre, and became a columnist for the Chicago Defender.

While working as a columnist, Hughes created one of his most populare characters, Jesse B. Semple, also called "Simple", who was portrayed as the common black man. This character would turn up regularly in his columns. And soon enough, Hughes compiled his sketches of "Simple" and created a book, which was turned into an Off-Broadway musical.

In the twenty years before Hughes' unfortunate death in 1967, Hughes became one of the most prodigious writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote Broadway musicals, short stories, long stories, a novel, five additional volumes of prose, an autobiography, and the highly acclaimed collection, Montage of a Dream Defered, written in 1951. Langston Hughes was truly one of the most important poets of American literature.


As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky--
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

Sources Baughman, Judith S. American Decades: 1920 - 1929. New York : Gale Research, 1996.

Cited Works

Microsoft Encarta   Hemingway, Ernest Miller.
     Redmen: Funk & Wagnalls Corporation: 1994