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Hughes, Langston(James Langston Hughes), 1902–67, American poet and central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, b. Joplin, Mo., grad. Lincoln Univ., 1929. He worked at a variety of jobs and lived in several countries, including Mexico and France, before Vachel Lindsay discovered his poetry in 1925. The publication of The Weary Blues (1926), his first volume of poetry, enabled Hughes to attend Lincoln Univ. in Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1929. His writing, which often uses dialect and jazz rhythms, is largely concerned with depicting African American life, particularly the experience of the urban African American. Among his later collections of poetry are Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), One-Way Ticket (1949), and Selected Poems (1959). Hughes's numerous other works include several plays, notably Mulatto (1935); books for children, such as The First Book of Negroes (1952); and novels, including Not Without Laughter (1930). His newspaper sketches about Jesse B. Simple were collected in The Best of Simple (1961).
See his autobiographies, The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956); The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1995) and Selected Letters of Langston Hughes (2015), both ed. by A. Rampersad and D. Roessel; Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten (2001), ed. by E. Bernard; biography by A. Rampersad (2 vol., 1986–88); Y. Taylor, Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal (2019); studies by O. Jemie (1985) and S. C. Tracy (1988).
Born Feb. 1, 1902, in Joplin, Mo.; died May 22, 1967, in New York City. American writer and publicist.
Born into a Negro family, Hughes graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1929. In his early verse (his first work was published in 1925) he sang the praises of simple people, using much folkloric detail. In the 1930’s, Hughes joined the progressive movement; in 1932 and 1933 he visited the USSR, and in 1934 he published A Negro Looks at Soviet Central Asia. The autobiographical novel Not Without Laughter (1930; Russian translation, 1932) is devoted to the life of American Negroes, as is the collection of short stories The Ways of White Folks (1934; Russian translation, 1936). The poetry collection A New Song (1938) is filled with the vision of proletarian internationalism.
Hughes’ works of the 1940’s and 50’s included the important articles about Simple, a folk hero with common sense who cleverly criticizes various aspects of American life. Especially noteworthy for their lyricism and rich poetic form are the collections Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), One Way Ticket (1949), and Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). His last collection, The Panther and the Lash (1967), includes verses on topical political events. Hughes also wrote the novel Tambourines to Glory (1958) and a number of plays.
In the 1960’s, Hughes took part in the struggle of American Negroes for civil rights, although he criticized extremist nationalistic tendencies.
WORKSSelected Poems. New York, 1959.
Good Morning, Revolution. New York, 1973.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. slikhi. Moscow, 1964.
REFERENCESGilenson, B. “‘Ia tozhe—Amerika’: K 75-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia L. Kh’iuza.” Inostrannaia literatura. 1977, no. 3.
Emanuel, J. Langston Hughes. New York, 1967.
Langston Hughes: Black Genius. New York, 1971.
Dickinson, D. C. A Biobibliography of Langston Hughes. With a foreword by A. Bontemps. Hamden, [Conn.], 1967.
B. A. GILENSON