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Langston Hughes Bookmark Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

“So will my page be colored that I write? Being me, it will not be white.”

Langston Hughes got his big break in 1925 while working as a busboy. The noted poet and critic Vachel Lindsay came in to dine at the restaurant where Hughes worked, and Hughes decided to take a chance. He lay three of his poems beside Lindsay’s plate. Lindsay liked them enough to read them at his own public lecture that night. The next day, Hughes’s name was in the local papers, and his career was launched.

Over the course of his life, he wrote poetry, fiction, essays, autobiography, children’s books, drama, and the librettos for several operas. He edited anthologies and other books and gave frequent public lectures. “I’m not a best-selling author,” he once said, “I have to do all sorts of things. I’m trying to conduct a major career on a minor income.” Many credit him as the first African-American to support himself entirely by his writing.

For the generations of writers, black and white, that followed him, Hughes was remembered for finding the material for great literature in the lives of common African-Americans, whom he called “low-down folk.” But his stylistic innovations were just as significant. He modeled his rhythms and cadences first on the blues and spirituals and later on jazz. He’s still known as “the Poet Laureate of Harlem.”
Langston Hughes