African-American writer James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on this date in 1902. He was an influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's. Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri and educated at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He published his first poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, in Crisis magazine in 1921 while studying at Columbia University. Hughes spent time in Paris and after returning to the United States, he worked as a busboy in Washington, D.C. It was there in 1925, that his literary skills were discovered after he left three of his poems beside the plate of American poet Vachel Lindsay, who recognized Hughes's abilities and helped publicize his work. Langston Hughes was active in social and political causes, using his poetry as a vehicle for cultural protest. He traveled to the Soviet Union, Haiti, and Japan, and he served as the Madrid correspondent for a Baltimore, Maryland newspaper during the Spanish Civil War. Hughes wrote over 50 books and his drama Mulatto was performed 373 times on Broadway. Hughes also became known for the character Jesse B. Simple that he created in the 1940's for the Chicago Defender & New York Post. The humor and dialect of Jesse Simple disguised his common sense while depicting the everyday American experiences of Black citizens. Hughes wrote in several literary genres including poetry, plays, short stories and novels. He is best known for his poetry, using jazz and Black folk rhythms in his work, ignoring classical forms in favor of the oral and improvisational traditions of Black culture. Langston Hughes died in 1967.Reference:African Americans/Voices of Triumph by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Copyright 1993, TimeLife Inc.
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