Langston Hughes was one of the most influential African-American poets of the Harlem Renaissance. His achievements include the publication of his first poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” to critical acclaim; winning several major literary awards for his poems, plays, short stories, and novels; founding theatres; teaching at universities; and being a major contributor to the Harlem Renaissance and shaping American literature.
Hughes was born on February 1, 1902. Shortly after graduating from high school, his first big poem was published in 1921 in the popular African-American magazine Crisis. In 1925, he won first place in another magazine’s literary contest with his poem “The Weary Blues.”
Hughes’ first collection of poems was published in 1926, and he was noted for his use of black themes and jazz rhythms in his writing. He subsequently published a number of further successful collections of poems, plays, and short stories.
In 1930, he was awarded the Harmon Gold Medal for Literature for his debut novel, “Not Without Laughter.” Hughes was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935, a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1941, and an honorary doctor of letters degree from Lincoln University in 1943.
Hughes was selected for membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1946. In addition, he was honoured with the Ansfield-Wolf Book Award in 1954 and the Springarn Medal for outstanding achievement by an African-American in 1960. In addition to teaching at Atlanta University and the University of Chicago, Hughes also opened theatres in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. He died in 1967.