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3. Utopian Promise   



10. Rhythms
in Poetry


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Activities: Author Activities


Langston Hughes - Selected Archive Items

Back Back to Langston Hughes Activities

[3099] Anonymous, Panorama of Joplin, MO (c. 1910),
courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin in 1902 and spent his childhood in Kansas, Illinois, and Ohio. He wrote his first poem in eighth grade and was named "class poet."

[3329] Anonymous, Langston Hughes in Honolulu, Hawaii, August, 1933 (1933),
courtesy of Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Langston Hughes estate.
Hughes vacationing in Hawaii. By his early thirties, Hughes had traveled to France, where he experienced a society in which race mattered little, and to Africa, where he was first exposed to ancient, non-Western cultures.

[4554] Prentiss Taylor, Scottsboro Limited (1931),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZC4-4717].
Lithograph from Scottsboro Limited, a collection of four poems and a play by Langston Hughes protesting the incarceration, conviction, and death sentence of the Scottsboro boys, nine African American youths unjustly accused of raping two white women.

[4768] Aaron Douglas, The Negro Speaks of Rivers (1941),
courtesy of The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art.
Drawing of an African American man in a natural setting for Langston Hughes's poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." Aaron Douglas's art arose out of the Harlem Renaissance and New Negro Movement.

[5100] Gordon Parks, Portrait of Langston Hughes (1943),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USW3-033841-C] and the Langston Hughes estate.
Following the depression, Langston Hughes's vocal support of communism led to his being called on to testify before Congress in 1953. Hughes was drawn to communism's emphasis on racial equality.

[5183] Valerie Wilmer, Langston Hughes in Front of Harlem Apartment (1962),
courtesy of Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Langston Hughes Estate.
Like William Carlos Williams and Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes admired Walt Whitman and created literary personas that spoke to more than his own experience. In particular, Hughes was committed to portraying everyday African American life in his poetry.

[5196] Anonymous, Langston Hughes at Age 3 (n.d.),
courtesy of Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Langston Hughes estate.
Langston Hughes was raised by his maternal grandmother, the widow of Lewis Sheridan Leary, who was killed at Harpers Ferry, and for his great-uncle, John Mercer Langston (brother to his grandmother's second husband), who also played a part in the raid at Harpers Ferry.

[5198] Anonymous, Langston Hughes at Age 22 (1924),
courtesy of Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Langston Hughes estate.
Poet Langston Hughes sought to portray the experiences of African Americans with honesty and challenged the elitism of W. E. B. Du Bois. Like Du Bois, however, he was an active social critic who fought for civil rights.


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