Langston Hughes Writer, Editor, Lecturer
Langston Hughes - Writer, Editor, Lecturer
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, and Langston was not even mentioned in his will.
Hughes mother went through protracted separations and reconciliations in her second marriage (she and her son from this marriage would live with him off and on in later years. He was raised by alternately by her, by his maternal grandmother, and, after his grandmother's death, by family friends. By the time he was fourteen, he had lived in Joplin; Buffalo; Cleveland; Lawrence, Kansas; Mexico City; Topeka, Kansas; Colorado Springs; Kansas City; and Lincoln, Illinois. In 1915, he was class poet of his grammar-school graduating class in Lincoln. From 1916 to 1920, he attended Central High School in Cleveland, where he was a star athlete, wrote poetry and short stories (and published many of them in the Central High Monthly), and on his own read such modern poets as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, and Carl Sandburg. His classmates were for the most part the children of European immigrants, who treated him largely without discrimination and introduced him to leftist political ideas.
After graduation in 1920, he went to Mexico to teach English for a year. While on the train to Mexico, he wrote the poem "the Negro Speaks of Rivers", which was published in the June 1921 issue of The Crisis, a leading black publication. After his academic year at Columbia, he lived for a year in Harlem, embarked on a six-month voyage as a cabin boy on a merchant freighter bound for West Africa. After its return, he took a job on a ship sailing to Holland.
After being robbed on a train in Italy and working his passage back to New York in November of 1924, Hughes moved in with his mother...