The section of New York City called Harlem was the home of a very wonderful poet during the 1920s and 1930s. Langston Hughes was one of the most influential black poets of the twentieth century. The blog I wrote and titled “I, too, am America” is a quote from this very talented man. He was born in 1902 in Missouri, however he lived most of his life in Harlem.
Langston was a mentor and inspiration to many other leading black writers and writers. In his poetry, he sought to foster black pride, break stereotypes, and outrage people by telling people about the injustices of racism and inequality. He wrote about lynchings, poverty, and the inner rage of blacks confined and humiliated by segregation. Hughes considered himself the people’s poet. He wanted his writings to be read and not studied. His writing is direct, accessible and often dramatic.
For instance, his poem “Ku Klux,” is written in the first person voice of a black kidnapped by the Klan. The title of the poem is truncated, but all of Hughes readers knew what the third word word would be. The poem concludes inconclusively, but readers understood the grim fate awaiting the man accused of “sassin’ ” white folks.
Hughes first poem was published in the Crisis, the NAACP magazine founded by W.E.B. DuBois. Hughes graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
He often wrote dark and pessimistic poetry, but considering his world, I believe it is understandable. Hughes did interweave his poetry with brighter optimism and humor. During his lifetime, the Civil Right’s Movement made progress toward equality, dignity and some of his work reflected this progress. Recently, Langston Hughes has been honored as a gay black male icon.