Langston Hughes Was Born
Do members of your family like to tell
stories? The tradition of storytelling inspired poet and writer
Langston Hughes, who was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February
1, 1902. Hughes spent much of his childhood with his
grandmother, who filled his imagination with stories of the
past. As a result, Hughes developed a deep interest in African
American culture and history that he later wrote into his many
stories, autobiographies, histories, and poems.
the poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" the summer after he
graduated from high school. It starts like this:
I've known rivers:
I've known rivers
ancient as the world and older
Than the flow of human blood
in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Hughes loved to write and was determined to
make his work known. In 1925, while working as a busboy at a
hotel in Washington D.C., he slipped three poems into the
shoulder bag of guest Vachel Lindsay, who was famous for his
performances of poetry. Lindsay liked the poems and as a result,
Hughes received a scholarship to Lincoln University in
Pennsylvania. There he earned his degree and published
collections of poetry and stories. Hughes was part of the Harlem
Renaissance, a flourishing of artistic expression by African
Americans centered in the community of Harlem in New York City
in the 1920s.
In 1941, Hughes wrote the poem "The Ballad
of Booker T" about the controversial educator, Booker T.
Washington. A freed slave, Washington became a political leader
for African Americans in 1881. Some people believe he was too
cooperative with the white leaders. Hughes understood Booker's
situation and explained it in the poem:
Sometimes he had
Compromise in his
For a man must crawl
Before he can walk-
Alabama in '85
A joker was lucky
To be alive.
Ask your family if anyone has read poetry or
stories by Langston Hughes. And while you're at it, ask your
parents and grandparents to tell some stories about the past.
Maybe they will inspire you.