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Langston Hughes - Writing To Inspire

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Michael Jordan Sellers

Dr. Horner

English 102

September 17, 2007

James Langston Hughes

Writing to Inspire

James Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri to James and Carrie Hughes in 1902. After being deserted by his father, he and his mother went to Lawrence, Kansas to live with his grandmother. In the midst of struggle to achieve racial equality life for the Hughes family was not easy. Most of Hughes' early childhood was spent with his grandmother while his mother, a schoolteacher, attempted to support their family to the best of her ability (Tracy 170). At a young age Hughes had not only recognized, but also been a part of an ongoing battle to live as an African American in the United States. Hughes, who had a difficult early life and encountered racism daily remained loyal to his heritage. With an undeniable respect for his African American background, Hughes made racial pride the basis of his best works. Langston Hughes' struggles as young black man shaped who he became as a both a writer and an inspirational leader to the African American community and the world.

Hughes encountered the harsh reality of racism at a very young age. When the time came to attend school, Hughes was forced to travel to a school across town because he was "black". Hughes' mother, refused to accept this, for there was a "white" school near their home. Ms. Hughes fought the school board on this issue in order for her son to attend the school that was closer and more convenient. She won the case and Hughes was allowed to attend the preferred school (Mikolyzk 2). It was here that Hughes began his journey as a writer. Ironically, this journey began when his teacher, claiming that black people have "rhythm", chose Hughes as class poet. Rather than denying this stereotype, Hughes used it as an opportunity to display his amazing talents. After graduating from Central High, the opportunity arose for Hughes to move to Mexico to live with his father. While living in Mexico, he published "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", a short poem exploring the journeys of African-American slavery (Hughes xi). After a disagreement with his father Hughes spent years traveling and later graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

With job opportunities scarce and lacking knowledge of the job market, Hughes knew he must make use of his talents and become a writer (Hughes 39). He soon discovered that writing was a difficult way to earn a living. Hughes saw little results, and even less money, from his early writings. Even with limited income, and his chosen lifestyle hard, he refused to ignore the roots of his culture. Hughes soon found that he had one problem in particular; he had to figure out how he would "make a living from the kind of writing [he] wanted to do" (Hughes 40). As Hughes wrote in his Autobiography, I Wonder as I Wander, "I wanted to write seriously and as well as I knew how about the Negro people". He quickly established a style of his own; a style that reflected his personal experiences as an African American in a time of racial inequality.

Hughes soon decided that he must make his work known, so he began to read his poetry to the public. After telling everyone where he was born, and a little bit about the struggles in his life that led him to writing such distinctive poetry. By doing this, he was aiming to make his audience laugh, think critically, and understand his culture through the various poems he had written (Hughes 86).

After building a name for himself, several books were published with his poems as a central focus. While Hughes was a renowned writer in the United States, and even around the world, he was not only a poet. He should also be known for is accomplishments in other areas of writing. "Hughes was a master dramatist whose plays alone would earn him a place in African American literary history (Baxter and Hughes 1). With many of his poems already in the form of lyrics, Hughes began to write operas and plays. Soon, Mulatto, a play by Hughes premiered as the basis of The Barrier, an opera in 1950 (Mikolyzk 23). Hughes was now more inspired to write and, in the midst of desegregation, he completed a book of poems about the life in Harlem. "Montage of a Dream Deferred" appeared in 1951 as a reflection of the hardships of African American life (Hughes xiv).

Hughes published many books about the Negro culture throughout the 1950's. Famous American Negroes, The First book of Rhythms, and Famous American Negroes, to name a few, are great books Langston Hughes wrote in honor of his culture. With things already going great for him, "the end of 1956 saw a brighter future for Hughes.



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