Thursday, May 2, 2013

Langston Hughes: A Legacy to Remember

"I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go." – Langston Hughes

An Overview

Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902 in a town in Missouri called Joplin. Soon after Hughes’s birth, his parents, James Hughes and Carrie Langston separated. Because Hughes’s parents had separated, his grandmother named Mary primarily raised him. Sadly, she passed away when Hughes was in his early teen years. After the death of his grandmother, Hughes went and lived with his mother. They moved from city to city, and eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. After settling in Cleveland, Hughes began to write poetry.

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
life is a broken winged
bird that cannot fly.” – Langston Hughes

After Hughes graduated High School, he went to Mexico for one year to live with his father. When Hughes was with his father in Mexico, his poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” got published into a magazine, in which it received much praise. Hughes left Mexico and decided to return to the states where he would then study at Colombia University. Hughes did not finish school and dropped out in 1922 and began working various jobs in New York for the next year. He then lived in Paris a couple of years later, where he continued his passion of poetry.

Hughes came back to the United States in 1924 and continued working more odd jobs. When Hughes was working as a busboy in Washington D.C. he met the famous Vachel Lindsay. Hughes then showed Lindsay some of his poems, and lucky enough for him, Lindsay began promoting Hughes’s poetry. Hughes won first prize in a magazine competition for his poem, “The Weary Blues.”

He received a scholarship and began studying at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Langston continued to write and publish poetry, as well as win awards. After he graduated from Lincoln, Hughes published his first novel, Not Without Laughter. Hughes continued writing as well as doing lectures all over the world. In addition to poetry and novels, Hughes also started publishing short stories. Interestingly enough, Hughes also wrote for the Chicago Defender. Hughes continued to show his versatility, and even helped write lyrics for Broadway. He began teaching creative writing at Atlanta University while be a guest speaker in Chicago.

In 1949, Hughes wrote a play that was said to inspire the opera named, Troubled Island. Hughes continued to publish works left and right as his life progressed.

On May 22, 1967, Hughes unfortunately passed away due to complications with prostate cancer. Although Hughes has passed on, his works continue to live and prosper throughout the world today.

Some Recognized Works

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” – A poem Hughes wrote that was published into The Crisis  magazine.

“The Weary Blues” – A poem Hughes wrote that received first place in the Opportunity magazine literary competition.

“Not Without Laughter” – Hughes first published novel.

"What happens to a dream deferred?
 Does it dry up like a raisin?
 Or does it explode?" - Langston Hughes

More Than Just A Poet

When someone mentions the name, Langston Hughes, generally speaking, the first thing that comes to mind is his poetry. Although Hughes has built his legacy on his poems generally speaking, he was so much more diverse and wrote so many various types of works other than poetry.

Langston Hughes wrote…

1.)  Poetry
2.)  Novels
3.)  Short Stories
4.)  Plays
5.)  Works for Children
6.)  Helped contribute to newspaper columns

A Few Awards/Recognitions 

In 1963 Hughes received his doctorate from Howard University.

Hughes has a middle school named after him in Reston, Virginia.

In New York City the Landmarks Preservation Commission and 127th St. was renamed Langston Hughes Place. 

These are just a few of the things that have been done to honor Langston Hughes. 

"Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go life is a barren field
 frozen with snow." - Langston Hughes

An Insight

When reading some of Hughes poems it is easy to understand why he is so well know for them. Hughes does such a great job of not only being clear, but also he has the ability to paint a picture so well in you head. It is almost as if one can see the feelings that Hughes is trying to get across. 

Although it sounds cliché, I personally feel that Drake's new hit single "Started From the Bottom" truly relates to Langston Hughes life. Hughes was not born into a 'normal' family, he moved around a lot, worked odd jobs and when he found something that he was truly passionate about, he pursued it and made it his life's work and has left his legacy on this earth. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, 

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." 

Works Cited

Biography. "Langston Hughes." N.P. N.D. Web.