Photo credit
Carl Van Vechten © Van Vechten Trust. Beinecke Library, Yale


James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, and was raised by his grandmother after his parents divorced. Both of Hughes’ great grandfathers were white, and his great grandmothers were enslaved African Americans. Hughes was well traveled, living in 6 American cities and visiting numerous countries, from Mexico to Italy. A prolific poet, novelist, playwright and journalist, Hughes was one of the founders of Jazz poetry, a form that incorporates the improvisational rhythms of jazz music. A central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, a 1920s movement that centred the African American experience, Hughes was a poet of the people, writing with humour and an embodied grace. Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose and poetry, including The Weary Blues (Knopf, 1926) and his first novel, Not Without Laughter (Random House, 1930), which received the Harmon Gold Medal for literature.

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