Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, to mother Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston and father James Nathaniel Hughes (1871–1934). Langston Hughes grew up in a series of Midwestern small towns. Because of active racism still going in United States, the family kept moving to places trying to escape it. Later, Hughes's father left his family and divorced Carrie.
Carrie remarried while Hughes was in adolescence, and the new couple settled in Cleveland, Ohio; where Langston Hughes completed his high school. He started giving more focus on books, literature, writing stories and poems. During his high school, he used to write for the school newspaper and edit the yearbook. Later, he began writing short stories, poetry and dramatic plays. His first piece of jazz poetry, "When Sue Wears Red", was written while he was in high school. Later, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to carry ahead his writing interests.
His work was first recognized in 1921, when "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", got published in The Crisis; which became his signature poem. In 1923, Langston Hughes served as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone, traveling to West Africa and Europe. Hughes worked at various odd jobs when in 1925, he quit the job and started devoting his time to writing. For financial support he took up work at the Wardman Park Hotel as busboy.
Some of his famous works
Langston Hughes tried to depict the "low-life", the real lives, of blacks who were seen in the lower social-economic strata. Depicting his criticism of divisions and biasing based on skin color within the black community he wrote "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" in 1926.
In 1930, his first novel “Not Without Laughter” won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature. The book depicts a variety of struggles blacks face due to their race and class. In 1931, Langston Hughes started writing for “New York Suitcase Theater". In 1932, he contributed his part to produce a Soviet film on "Negro Life". Hughes' first collection of short stories was published in 1934 with The Ways of White Folks.
At the End
Langston Hughes died at the age of 65, on 22nd May, 1967, from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer in the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The design on the floor is an African Cosmo-gram entitled Rivers. The title is taken from his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers".