||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (July 2015)|
1936 photo by Carl Van Vechten
|Born||James Mercer Langston Hughes
February 1, 1902
Joplin, Missouri, United States
|Died||May 22, 1967
New York City, United States
|Occupation||Poet, columnist, dramatist, essayist, novelist|
|Ethnicity||African American, White American, Native American|
James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.
He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "the negro was in vogue", which was later paraphrased as "when Harlem was in vogue".
Ancestry and childhood
Both of Hughes' paternal great-grandmothers were African-American and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners of Kentucky. According to Hughes, one of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller of Henry County and supposedly a relative of Henry Clay, and the other was Silas Cushenberry a Jewish-American slave trader of Clark County. Hughes's maternal grandmother Mary Patterson was of African-American, French, English and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she first married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race. Leary subsequently joined John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 and died from his wounds.
In 1869 the widow Mary Patterson Leary married again, into the elite, politically active Langston family. Her second husband was Charles Henry Langston, of African-American, Native American, and Euro-American ancestry. He and his younger brother John Mercer Langston worked for the abolitionist cause and helped lead the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society  in 1858. Charles Langston later moved to Kansas, where he was active as an educator and activist for voting and rights for African Americans. Charles and Mary's daughter Caroline was the mother of Langston Hughes.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, the second child of school teacher Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes (1871–1934). Langston Hughes grew up in a series of Midwestern small towns. Hughes's father left his family and later divorced Carrie, going to Cuba, and then Mexico, seeking to escape the enduring racism in the United States.
After the separation of his parents, while his mother traveled seeking employment, young Langston Hughes was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas. Through the black American oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled in her grandson a lasting sense of racial pride. He spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. After the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends, James and Mary Reed, for two years. In his 1940 autobiography The Big Sea he wrote, "I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books — where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas."
I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everyone knows, except us, that all Negroes have rhythm, so they elected me as class poet.
During high school in Cleveland, he wrote for the school newspaper, edited the yearbook, and began to write his first short stories, poetry, and dramatic plays. His first piece of jazz poetry, "When Sue Wears Red", was written while he was in high school.
Relationship with father
Hughes had a very poor relationship with his father. He lived with his father in Mexico for a brief period in 1919. Upon graduating from high school in June 1920, Hughes returned to Mexico to live with his father, hoping to convince him to support Langston's plan to attend Columbia University. Hughes later said that, prior to arriving in Mexico, "I had been thinking about my father and his strange dislike of his own people. I didn't understand it, because I was a Negro, and I liked Negroes very much." Initially, his father had hoped for Hughes to attend a university abroad, and to study for a career in engineering. On these grounds, he was willing to provide financial assistance to his son but did not support his desire to be a writer. Eventually, Hughes and his father came to a compromise: Hughes would study engineering, so long as he could attend Columbia. His tuition provided; Hughes left his father after more than a year. While at Columbia in 1921, Hughes managed to maintain a B+ grade average. He left in 1922 because of racial prejudice, and his interests revolved more around the neighborhood of Harlem than his studies, though he continued writing poetry.
Hughes worked various odd jobs, before serving a brief tenure as a crewman aboard the S.S. Malone in 1923, spending six months traveling to West Africa and Europe. In Europe, Hughes left the S.S. Malone for a temporary stay in Paris.
During his time in England in the early 1920s, Hughes became part of the black expatriate community. In November 1924, he returned to the U.S. to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. Hughes worked at various odd jobs before gaining a white-collar job in 1925 as a personal assistant to the historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. As the work demands limited his time for writing, Hughes quit the position to work as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel. There he encountered the poet Vachel Lindsay, with whom he shared some poems. Impressed with the poems, Lindsay publicized his discovery of a new black poet. By this time, Hughes's earlier work had been published in magazines and was about to be collected into his first book of poetry.
The following year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Thurgood Marshall, who later became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was a classmate of Langston Hughes during his undergraduate studies at Lincoln University.
After Hughes earned a B.A. degree from Lincoln University in 1929, he returned to New York. Except for travels to the Soviet Union and parts of the Caribbean, Hughes lived in Harlem as his primary home for the remainder of his life. During the 1930s, Hughes became a resident of Westfield, New Jersey.
Some academics and biographers today believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman. Hughes has cited him as an influence on his poetry. Hughes's story, "Blessed Assurance", deals with a father's anger over his son's effeminacy and "queerness".:192:161 The biographer Aldrich argues that, in order to retain the respect and support of black churches and organizations and avoid exacerbating his precarious financial situation, Hughes remained closeted.
Arnold Rampersad, the primary biographer of Hughes, determined that Hughes exhibited a preference for other African-American men in his work and life. However, in his biography Rampersad denies Hughes's homosexuality. Rampersad concludes that Hughes was probably asexual and passive in his sexual relationships. He did, however, show a respect and love for his fellow black man (and woman). Other scholars argue for Hughes's homosexuality: his love of black men is evidenced in a number of reported unpublished poems to an alleged black male lover.
On May 22, 1967, Hughes died from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer, at the age of 65. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. It is the entrance to an auditorium named for him. The design on the floor is an African cosmogram entitled Rivers. The title is taken from his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Within the center of the cosmogram is the line: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers".
First published in The Crisis in 1921, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", which became Hughes's signature poem, was collected in his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926). Hughes's first and last published poems appeared in The Crisis; more of his poems were published in The Crisis than in any other journal. Hughes's life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, alongside those of his contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas. Except for McKay, they worked together also to create the short-lived magazine Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists.
Hughes and his contemporaries had different goals and aspirations than the black middle class. They criticized the men known as the midwives of the Harlem Renaissance: W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Alain LeRoy Locke, as being overly accommodating and assimilating eurocentric values and culture to achieve social equality.
Hughes and his fellows tried to depict the "low-life" in their art, that is, the real lives of blacks in the lower social-economic strata. They criticized the divisions and prejudices based on skin color within the black community. Hughes wrote what would be considered their manifesto, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain", published in The Nation in 1926:
"The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too. The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain free within ourselves."
Hughes identified as unashamedly black at a time when blackness was démodé. He stressed the theme of "black is beautiful" as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths. His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of the general American experience.
His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working-class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Permeating his work is pride in the African-American identity and its diverse culture. "My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind," Hughes is quoted as saying. He confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded African America’s image of itself; a "people's poet" who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality.
Hughes stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism devoid of self-hate. His thought united people of African descent and Africa across the globe to encourage pride in their diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic. Hughes was one of the few prominent black writers to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists. His African-American race consciousness and cultural nationalism would influence many foreign black writers, such as Jacques Roumain, Nicolás Guillén, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire. Along with the works of Senghor, Césaire, and other French-speaking writers of Africa and of African descent from the Caribbean, such as René Maran from Martinique and Léon Damas from French Guiana in South America, the works of Hughes helped to inspire the Négritude movement in France. A radical black self-examination was emphasized in the face of European colonialism. In addition to his example in social attitudes, Hughes had an important technical influence by his emphasis on folk and jazz rhythms as the basis of his poetry of racial pride.
In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon Gold Medal for literature. At a time before widespread arts grants, Hughes gained the support of private patrons and he was supported for two years prior to publishing this novel. The protagonist of the story is a boy named Sandy, whose family must deal with a variety of struggles due to their race and class, in addition to relating to one another.
In 1931, Hughes helped form the "New York Suitcase Theater" with playwright Paul Peters, artist Jacob Burck, and writer (soon-to-be underground spy) Whittaker Chambers, an acquaintance from Columbia. In 1932, he was part of a board to produce a Soviet film on "Negro Life" with Malcolm Cowley, Floyd Dell, and Chambers.
In 1932, Hughes and Ellen Winter wrote a pageant to Caroline Decker in an attempt to celebrate her work with the striking coal miners of the Harlan County War, but it was never performed. It was judged to be a "long, artificial propaganda vehicle too complicated and too cumbersome to be performed."
Hughes' first collection of short stories was published in 1934 with The Ways of White Folks. He finished the book at a Carmel, California cottage provided for a year by Noel Sullivan, another patron. These stories are a series of vignettes revealing the humorous and tragic interactions between whites and blacks. Overall, they are marked by a general pessimism about race relations, as well as a sardonic realism.
In 1935 Hughes received a Guggenheim Fellowship. The same year that Hughes established his theatre troupe in Los Angeles, he realized an ambition related to films by co-writing the screenplay for Way Down South. Hughes believed his failure to gain more work in the lucrative movie trade was due to racial discrimination within the industry.
In Chicago, Hughes founded The Skyloft Players in 1941, which sought to nurture black playwrights and offer theatre "from the black perspective." Soon thereafter, he was hired to write a column for the Chicago Defender, in which he presented some of his "most powerful and relevant work", giving voice to black people. The column ran for twenty years. In 1943, Hughes began publishing stories about a character he called Jesse B. Semple, often referred to and spelled "Simple", the everyday black man in Harlem who offered musings on topical issues of the day. Although Hughes seldom responded to requests to teach at colleges, in 1947 he taught at Atlanta University. In 1949, he spent three months at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools as a visiting lecturer. Between 1942 and 1949 Hughes was a frequent writer and served on the editorial board of Common Ground, a literary magazine focused on cultural pluralism in the United States published by the Common Council for American Unity (CCAU).
He wrote novels, short stories, plays, poetry, operas, essays, and works for children. With the encouragement of his best friend and writer, Arna Bontemps, and patron and friend, Carl Van Vechten, he wrote two volumes of autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, as well as translating several works of literature into English.
During the mid-1950s and -1960s, Hughes' popularity among the younger generation of black writers varied even as his reputation increased worldwide. With the gradual advancement toward racial integration, many black writers considered his writings of black pride and its corresponding subject matter out of date. They considered him a racial chauvinist. He found some new writers, including James Baldwin, lacking in such pride, over-intellectual in their work, and occasionally vulgar.
Hughes wanted young black writers to be objective about their race, but not to scorn it or flee it. He understood the main points of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, but believed that some of the younger black writers who supported it were too angry in their work. Hughes's work Panther and the Lash, posthumously published in 1967, was intended to show solidarity with these writers, but with more skill and devoid of the most virulent anger and racial chauvinism some showed toward whites. Hughes continued to have admirers among the larger younger generation of black writers. He often helped writers by offering advice and introducing them to other influential persons in the literature and publishing communities. This latter group, including Alice Walker, whom Hughes discovered, looked upon Hughes as a hero and an example to be emulated within their own work. One of these young black writers (Loften Mitchell) observed of Hughes:
"Langston set a tone, a standard of brotherhood and friendship and cooperation, for all of us to follow. You never got from him, 'I am the Negro writer,' but only 'I am a Negro writer.' He never stopped thinking about the rest of us."
Hughes, like many black writers and artists of his time, was drawn to the promise of Communism as an alternative to a segregated America. Many of his lesser-known political writings have been collected in two volumes published by the University of Missouri Press and reflect his attraction to Communism. An example is the poem "A New Song".
In 1932, Hughes became part of a group of black people who went to the Soviet Union to make a film depicting the plight of African Americans in the United States. The film was never made, but Hughes was given the opportunity to travel extensively through the Soviet Union and to the Soviet-controlled regions in Central Asia, the latter parts usually closed to Westerners. While there, he met Robert Robinson, an African American living in Moscow and unable to leave. In Turkmenistan, Hughes met and befriended the Hungarian author Arthur Koestler, then a Communist who was given permission to travel there.
As later noted in Koestler's autobiography, Hughes, together with some forty other Black Americans, had originally been invited to the Soviet Union to produce a Soviet film on "Negro Life", but the Soviets dropped the film idea because of their 1933 success in getting the US to recognize the Soviet Union and establish an embassy in Moscow. This entailed a toning down of Soviet propaganda on racial segregation in America. Hughes and his fellow Blacks were not informed of the reasons for the cancelling, but he and Koestler worked it out for themselves.
Hughes also managed to travel to China and Japan before returning to the States.
Hughes's poetry was frequently published in the CPUSA newspaper and he was involved in initiatives supported by Communist organizations, such as the drive to free the Scottsboro Boys. Partly as a show of support for the Republican faction during the Spanish Civil War, in 1937 Hughes traveled to Spain as a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American and other various African-American newspapers. Hughes was also involved in other Communist-led organizations such as the John Reed Clubs and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. He was more of a sympathizer than an active participant. He signed a 1938 statement supporting Joseph Stalin's purges and joined the American Peace Mobilization in 1940 working to keep the U.S. from participating in World War II.
Hughes initially did not favor black American involvement in the war because of the persistence of discriminatory U.S. Jim Crow laws and racial segregation and disfranchisement throughout the South. He came to support the war effort and black American participation after deciding that war service would aid their struggle for civil rights at home. The scholar Anthony Pinn has noted that Hughes, together with Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, was a humanist "critical of belief in God. They provided a foundation for nontheistic participation in social struggle." Pinn has found that such writers are sometimes ignored in the narrative of American history that chiefly credits the civil rights movement to the work of affiliated Christian people.
Hughes was accused of being a Communist by many on the political right, but he always denied it. When asked why he never joined the Communist Party, he wrote, "it was based on strict discipline and the acceptance of directives that I, as a writer, did not wish to accept." In 1953, he was called before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He stated, "I never read the theoretical books of socialism or communism or the Democratic or Republican parties for that matter, and so my interest in whatever may be considered political has been non-theoretical, non-sectarian, and largely emotional and born out of my own need to find some way of thinking about this whole problem of myself." Following his testimony, Hughes distanced himself from Communism. He was rebuked by some on the Radical Left who had previously supported him. He moved away from overtly political poems and towards more lyric subjects. When selecting his poetry for his Selected Poems (1959) he excluded all his radical Socialist verse from the 1930s.
Representation in other media
Hughes was featured reciting his poetry on the album Weary Blues (MGM, 1959) with music by Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather and also contributed lyrics to Randy Weston's Uhuru Afrika (Roulette, 1960).
Hughes' life has been portrayed in film and stage productions since the late twentieth century. In Looking for Langston (1989), British filmmaker Isaac Julien claimed him as a black gay icon — Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had historically been ignored or downplayed. Film portrayals of Hughes include Gary LeRoi Gray's role as a teenage Hughes in the short subject film Salvation (2003) (based on a portion of his autobiography The Big Sea), and Daniel Sunjata as Hughes in the Brother to Brother (2004). Hughes' Dream Harlem, a documentary by Jamal Joseph, examines Hughes' works and environment.
Paper Armor (1999) by Eisa Davis and Hannibal of the Alps (2005) by Michael Dinwiddie are plays by African-American playwrights that address Hughes's sexuality. Spike Lee's 1996 film Get on the Bus, included a black gay character, played by Isaiah Washington, who invokes the name of Hughes and punches a homophobic character, saying, "This is for James Baldwin and Langston Hughes."
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University holds the Langston Hughes papers (1862–1980) and the Langston Hughes collection (1924–1969) containing letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, artworks, and objects that document the life of Hughes. The Langston Hughes Memorial Library on the campus of Lincoln University, as well as at the James Weldon Johnson Collection within the Yale University also hold archives of Hughes' work.
Honors and awards
- 1926: Hughes won the Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Prize.
- 1935: Hughes was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to Spain and Russia.
- 1941: Hughes was awarded a fellowship from the Rosenwald Fund.
- 1943: Lincoln University awarded Hughes an honorary Litt.D.
- 1954: Hughes won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
- 1960: the NAACP awarded Hughes the Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievements by an African American.
- 1961: National Institute of Arts and Letters.
- 1963: Howard University awarded Hughes an honorary doctorate.
- 1964: Western Reserve University awarded Hughes an honorary Litt.D.
- 1973: the first Langston Hughes Medal was awarded by the City College of New York.
- 1979: Langston Hughes Middle School was created in Reston, Virginia.
- 1981: New York City Landmark status was given to the Harlem home of Langston Hughes at 20 East 127th Street (New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and 127th Street was renamed Langston Hughes Place. The Langston Hughes House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. ) by the
- 2002: The United States Postal Service added the image of Langston Hughes to its Black Heritage series of postage stamps.
- 2002: scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Langston Hughes on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
- 2015: Google Doodle commemorated his 113th birthday.
Novels and short story collections
Books for children
- The Langston Hughes Reader. New York: Braziller, 1958.
- Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes. Lawrence Hill, 1973.
- The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2001.
- "My Adventures as a Social Poet" (essay), Phylon, 3rd Quarter 1947.
- "The Negro Artist and The Racial Mountain" (article), The Nation, June 23, 1926.
- Francis, Ted (2002). Realism in the Novels of the Harlem Renaissance.
- Langston Hughes (1940). The Big Sea. p. 36. ISBN 0-8262-1410-X.
- Faith Berry, Langston Hughes, Before and Beyond Harlem, Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983; reprint, Citadel Press, 1992, p. 1.
- Richard B. Sheridan, "Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas", Kansas State History, Winter 1999. Accessed December 15, 2008.
- Laurie F. Leach, Langston Hughes: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, pp. 2–4.
- "Ohio Anti-Slavery Society - Ohio History Central". ohiohistorycentral.org.
- William and Aimee Lee Cheek, "John Mercer Langston: Principle and Politics", in Leon F. Litwack and August Meier (eds), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century, University of Illinois Press, 1991, pp. 106–111.
- "African-Native American Scholars". African-Native American Scholars. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- West, Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, 2003, p. 160.
- Hughes recalled his maternal grandmother’s stories: "Through my grandmother’s stories life always moved, moved heroically toward an end. Nobody ever cried in my grandmother’s stories. They worked, schemed, or fought. But no crying." Rampersad, Arnold, & David Roessel (2002). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, Knopf, p. 620.
- The poem "Aunt Sues’s Stories" (1921) is an oblique tribute to his grandmother and his loving Auntie Mary Reed, a family friend. Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 43.
- Imbued by his grandmother with a duty to help his race, Hughes identified with neglected and downtrodden black people all his life, and glorified them in his work. Brooks, Gwendolyn (October 12, 1986). "The Darker Brother", The New York Times.
- Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume II: 1914-1967, I Dream a World, Oxford University Press, p. 11. ISBN 9780195146431
- Langston Hughes Reads His Poetry with commentary, audiotape from Caedmon Audio
- "Langston Hughes, Writer, 4, Dead", The New York Times, May 23, 1967.
- Langston Hughes (1940). The Big Sea. pp. 54–56.
- Gwendolyn Brooks, Review: The Darker Brother, The New York Times, October 12, 1986. Quote: And the father, Hughes said, "hated Negroes. I think he hated himself, too, for being a Negro. He disliked all of his family because they were Negroes." James Hughes was tightfisted, uncharitable, cold.
- Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 56.
- "Poem" or "To. F.S." first appeared in The Crisis in May 1925, and was reprinted in The Weary Blues and The Dream Keeper. Hughes never publicly identified F.S., but it is conjectured he was Ferdinand Smith, a merchant seaman whom the poet first met in New York in the early 1920s. Nine years older than Hughes, Smith first influenced the poet to go to sea. Born in Jamaica in 1893, Smith spent most of his life as a ship steward and political activist at sea—and later in New York as a resident of Harlem. Smith was deported back to Jamaica for alleged Communist activities and illegal alien status in 1951. Hughes corresponded with Smith up until 1961, when Smith died. Berry, p. 347.
- In 1926, a patron of Hughes, Amy Spingarn, wife of Joel Elias Spingarn who was president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), provided the funds ($300) for him to attend Lincoln University. Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, pp. 122-23.
- In November 1927, Charlotte Osgood Mason, ("Godmother" as she liked to be called), became Hughes's major patron. Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 156.
- "Mule Bone: Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston's Dream Deferred of an African-American Theatre of the Black Word.", African American Review, March 22, 2001. Accessed March 7, 2008. "In February 1930, Hurston headed north, settling in Westfield, New Jersey. Godmother Mason (Mrs. Rufus Osgood Mason, their white protector) had selected Westfield, safely removed from the distractions of New York City, as a suitable place for both Hurston and Hughes to work."
- "J. L. Hughes Will Depart After Questioning as to Communism", The New York Times, July 25, 1933.
- Nero, Charles I. (1997) "Re/Membering Langston", In Martin Duberman (ed.), Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures, New York University Press ISBN 978-0-81471-884-1
- Yale Symposium, Was Langston Gay? commemorating the 100th birthday of Hughes in 2002.
- Schwarz, pp. 68–88.
- Although Hughes was extremely closeted, some of his poems may hint at homosexuality. These include: "Joy," "Desire", "Cafe: 3 A.M.," "Waterfront Streets", "Young Sailor", "Trumpet Player", "Tell Me", "F.S." and some poems in Montage of a Dream Deferred. LGBTQQ History, Iowa Pride Network. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
- "Cafe 3 A.M." was against gay bashing by police, and "Poem for F.S." was about his friend Ferdinand Smith. Nero, Charles I. (1999), p. 500.
- Jean Blackwell Hutson, former chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, said, "He was always eluding marriage. He said marriage and career didn't work....It wasn't until his later years that I became convinced he was homosexual." Hutson & Nelson, Essence, February 1992, p. 96.
- McClatchy, J. D. (2002). Langston Hughes: Voice of the Poet. New York: Random House Audio. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-55371-491-3.
Though there were infrequent and half-hearted affairs with women, most people considered Hughes asexual, insistent on a skittish, carefree 'innocence.' In fact, he was a closeted homosexual.
- Aldrich, (2001), p. 200.
- Referring to men of African descent, Rampersad writes "...Hughes found some young men, especially dark-skinned men, appealing and sexually fascinating. (Both in his various artistic representations, in fiction especially, and in his life, he appears to have found young white men of little sexual appeal.) Virile young men of very dark complexion fascinated him." Rampersad, vol. 2, 1988, p. 336.
- "His fatalism was well placed. Under such pressure, Hughes's sexual desire, such as it was, became not so much sublimated as vaporized. He governed his sexual desires to an extent rare in a normal adult male; whether his appetite was normal and adult is impossible to say. He understood, however, that Cullen and Locke offered him nothing he wanted, or nothing that promised much for him or his poetry. If certain of his responses to Locke seemed like teasing (a habit Hughes would never quite lose with women, or, perhaps, men) they were not therefore necessarily signs of sexual desire; more likely, they showed the lack of it. Nor should one infer quickly that Hughes was held back by a greater fear of public exposure as a homosexual than his friends had; of the three men, he was the only one ready, indeed eager, to be perceived as disreputable." "Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes, Vol. I, p. 69.
- Sandra West states: Hughes's "apparent love for black men as evidenced through a series of unpublished poems he wrote to a black male lover named 'Beauty'." West, 2003, p. 162.
- Whitaker, Charles. Langston Hughes: 100th birthday celebration of the poet of Black America, Ebony, April 2002.
- "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Audio file, Hughes reading. Poem information from Poets.org.
- "The Negro Speaks of Rivers": first published in The Crisis (June 1921) p. 17. Included in The New Negro (1925), The Weary Blues, Langston Hughes Reader, and Selected Poems. The poem is dedicated to W. E. B. Du Bois in The Weary Blues, but it is printed without dedication in later versions. — Rampersad & Roessel (2002) In The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, pp. 23, 620
- Rampersad & Roessel (2002) The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, pp. 23, 620
- Hughes "disdained the rigid class and color differences the 'best people' drew between themselves and Afro-Americans of darker complexion, of smaller means and lesser formal education." — Berry, 1983 & 1992, p. 60.
- "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (June 1926) The Nation
- Patterson, Lindsay (June 29, 1969). "Langston Hughes—The Most Abused Poet in America?". The New York Times.
....but his tastes and selectivity were not always accurate, and pressures to survive as a black writer in a white society (and it was a miracle that he did for so long) extracted an enormous creative toll. Nevertheless, Hughes, more than any other black poet or writer, recorded faithfully the nuances of black life and its frustrations.
- Rampersad & Roessel (2002) The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 3
- Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 418.
- West, 2003, p. 162.
- "My People" First published as "Poem" in The Crisis (October 1923), p. 162, and The Weary Blues (1926). The title "My People" was collected in The Dream Keeper (1932) and the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1959). Rampersad & Roessel (2002), The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, pp. 36, 623.
- Rampersad. vol. 2, 1988, p. 297.
- Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 91.
- Mercer Cook, African-American scholar of French culture wrote: "His (Langston Hughes) work had a lot to do with the famous concept of Négritude, of black soul and feeling, that they were beginning to develop." Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 343.
- Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, p. 343.
- Charlotte Mason generously supported Hughes for two years. She supervised his writing his first novel, Not Without Laughter (1930). Her patronage of Hughes ended about the time the novel appeared. Rampersad. "Langston Hughes", in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p. 207.
- Tanenhaus, Sam (1997). Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. Random House.
- Anne Loftis (1998) Witnesses to the Struggle, p. 46, University of Nevada Press ISBN 978-0-87417-305-5
- Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. pp. 44–45 (includes description of Lieber), 203, 266fn, 355, 365, 366, 388, 376–377, 377fn, 394, 397, 401, 408, 410. LCCN 52005149.
- Noel Sullivan, after working out an agreement with Hughes, became a patron for him in 1933. — Rampersad, vol. 1, 1986, p. 277.
- Sullivan provided Hughes with the opportunity to complete The Ways of White Folks (1934) in Carmel, California. Hughes stayed a year in a cottage Sullivan provided. — Rampersad. Langston Hughes. In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 2001, p. 207.
- Rampersad (2001) Langston Hughes, p. 207.
- Co-written with Clarence Muse, African-American Hollywood actor and musician. — Rampersad. vol. 1, 1986, pp. 366-69.
- "Langston Hughes". Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. Chicago Writers Association. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 207.
- Langston's misgivings about the new black writing were because of its emphasis on black criminality and frequent use of profanity. — Rampersad, vol. 2, p. 207.
- Hughes said: "There are millions of blacks who never murder anyone, or rape or get raped or want to rape, who never lust after white bodies, or cringe before white stupidity, or Uncle Tom, or go crazy with race, or off-balance with frustration." — Rampersad, vol. 2, p. 119.
- Langston eagerly looked to the day when the gifted young writers of his race would go beyond the clamor of civil rights and integration and take a genuine pride in being black... he found this latter quality starkly absent in even the best of them. — Rampersad, vol. 2, p. 310.
- "As for whites in general, Hughes did not like them...He felt he had been exploited and humiliated by them." — Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 338.
- Hughes's advice on how to deal with racists was, "'Always be polite to them...be over-polite. Kill them with kindness.' But, he insisted on recognizing that all whites are not racist, and definitely enjoyed the company of those who sought him out in friendship and with respect." — Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 368.
- Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 409.
- The end of "A New Song" was substantially changed when it was included in A New Song (New York: International Workers Order, 1938).
- Tanenhaus, Sam (1997). Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. Random House. Malcolm Cowley, Floyd Dell, and Chambers were also involved in this intended film.
- Arthur Koestler, "The Invisible Writing", Ch. 10
- "Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives". Alba-valb.org. Retrieved July 24, 2010.
- Langston Hughes (2001), Fight for Freedom and Other Writings, p. 9, University of Missouri Press.
- Irma Cayton, African American, said: "He had told me that it wasn't our war, it wasn't our business, there was too much Jim Crow. But he had changed his mind about all that." Rampersad, 1988, vol. 2, p. 85.
- Kimberly Winston, Religious News Service, "Blacks say atheists were unseen civil rights heroes", Washington Post, February 22, 2012.
- Executive sessions of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, Volume 2, Volume 107, Issue 84 of S. prt, Beth Bolling, ISBN 9780160513626. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Publisher: U.S. G.P.O., Original from the University of Michigan p988
- Langston Hughes: A Biography (2004) Laurie F. Leach Greenwood Publishing Group, p118-119 2004 ISBN 9780313324970
- "We are African Americans for Humanism". African Americans for Humanism. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "Langston Hughes Memorial Library". Lincoln University. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
- "Langston Hughes — Poet". h2g2: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Retrieved July 24, 2010.
- Jean Carlson (2007).. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
- Langston Hughes’ 113th Birthday
- Aldrich, Robert (2001). Who's Who in Gay & Lesbian History. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22974-X
- Bernard, Emily (2001). Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925–1964. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45113-7
- Berry, Faith (1983.1992,). "Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem". In On the Cross of the South, Citadel Press, p. 150; & Zero Hour, pp. 185–186. ISBN 0-517-14769-6
- Chenrow, Fred; Chenrow, Carol (1973). Reading Exercises in Black History, Volume 1. Elizabethtown, PA: The Continental Press, Inc. p. 36. ISBN 08454-2107-7.
- Hughes, Langston (2001). "Fight for Freedom and Other Writings on Civil Rights" (Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Vol. 10). In Christopher C. DeSantis (ed.). Introduction, p. 9. University of Missouri Press ISBN 0-8262-1371-5
- Hutson, Jean Blackwell; & Jill Nelson (February 1992). "Remembering Langston". Essence, p. 96.
- Joyce, Joyce A. (2004). "A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes". In Steven C. Tracy (ed.), Hughes and Twentieth-Century Genderracial Issues, p. 136. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514434-1
- Nero, Charles I. (1997). "Re/Membering Langston: Homphobic Textuality and Arnold Rampersad's Life of Langston Hughes". In Martin Duberman (ed.), Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures, p. 192. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-1884-1
- Nero, Charles I. (1999). "Free Speech or Hate Speech: Pornography and its Means of Production". In Larry P. Gross & James D. Woods (eds), Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics, Columbia University Press, p. 500. ISBN 0-231-10447-2
- Nichols, Charles H. (1980). Arna Bontempts-Langston Hughes Letters, 1925–1967, Dodd, Mead & Company. ISBN 0-396-07687-4
- Ostrom, Hans (1993). Langston Hughes: A Study of the Short Fiction, New York: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-8343-1
- Ostrom, Hans (2002). A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia, Westport: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30392-4
- Rampersad, Arnold (1986). The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume 1: I, Too, Sing America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514642-5
- Rampersad, Arnold (1988). The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume 2: I Dream A World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514643-3
- Schwarz, Christa A. B. (2003). "Langston Hughes: A true 'people's poet'". In Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, Indiana University Press, pp. 68–88. ISBN 0-253-21607-9
- West, Sandra L. (2003). "Langston Hughes". In Aberjhani & Sandra West (eds), Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Checkmark Press, p. 162. ISBN 0-8160-4540-2
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Langston Hughes|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Langston Hughes.|
- Yale Lecture on Langston Hughes audio, video and full transcripts from Open Yale Courses.
- Interview with Emily Bernard, on Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964, Booknotes, April 22, 2001.
- Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston & the Harlem Renaissance Writers at C-SPAN's American Writers: A Journey Through History.
- Langston Hughes on Poets.org With poems, related essays, and links.
- Profile and poems of Langston Hughes, including audio files and scholarly essays, at the Poetry Foundation.
- Cary Nelson, "Langston Hughes (1902-1967)". Profile at Modern American Poetry.
- Beinecke Library, Yale. "Langston Hughes at 100".
- FBI profile
- "(James) Langston Hughes (1902-1967). PBS profile.
- Profile at Library of Congress.
- Langston Hughes in Lawrence, Kansas. Photographs and biographical resources.
Archive and works
- Langston Hughes Papers. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
- [http://arcat.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=573/ Langston Hughes Papers at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research
- Resources at Library of Congress including audio.
- Representative Poetry Online, University of Toronto
- Works by Langston Hughes at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Langston Hughes at Internet Archive
- Works by Langston Hughes at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)