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Langston Hughes

February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967

Inducted in 2012

Poetry Collections

The Weary Blues (1926)

Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927)

The Negro Mother and Other Dramatic Recitations (1931)

Dear Lovely Death (1931)

The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932)

Scottsboro Limited: Four Poems and a Play (1932)

Let America Be America Again (1938)

Shakespeare in Harlem (1942)

Freedom's Plow (1943)

Fields of Wonder (1947)

One-Way Ticket (1949)

Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1958)

Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (1961)

The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times (1967)

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1994)

Novels and Short Story Collections

Not Without Laughter (1930)

The Ways of White Folks (1934)

Simple Speaks His Mind (1950)

Laughing to Keep from Crying (1952)

Simple Takes a Wife (1953)

Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955)

Simple Stakes a Claim (1957)

Tambourines to Glory (1958)

The Best of Simple (1961)

Simple's Uncle Sam (1965)

Something in Common and Other Stories (1963)

Short Stories of Langston Hughes (1996)

Non-Fiction Books

The Big Sea (1940)

Famous American Negroes (1954)

Famous Negro Music Makers (1955)

I Wonder as I Wander (1956)

A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, with Milton Meltzer (1956)

Famous Negro Heroes of America (1958)

Fight for Freedom: The Story of the NAACP (1962)

Major Plays

Mule Bone, with Zora Neale Hurston (1931)

Mulatto, 1935 (renamed The Barrier, an opera, in 1950)

Troubled Island, with William Grant Still (1936)

Little Ham (1936)

Emperor of Haiti (1936)

Don't You Want to be Free? (1938)

Street Scene, contributed lyrics (1947)

Tambourines to Glory (1956)

Simply Heavenly (1957)

Black Nativity (1961)

Five Plays by Langston Hughes (1963)

Jerico-Jim Crow (1964)

Books for Children

Popo and Fifina, with Arna Bontemps (1932)

The First Book of the Negroes (1952)

The First Book of Jazz (1954)

Marian Anderson: Famous Concert Singer, with Steven C. Tracy (1954)

The First Book of Rhythms (1954)

The First Book of the West Indies (1956)

First Book of Africa (1964)

Black Misery (1969)

Other Writings

The Langston Hughes Reader (1958)

Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes (1973)

The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (2001)

"My Adventures as a Social Poet" Phylon (1947)

"The Negro Artist and The Racial Mountain" The Nation (1926)

To create a market for your writing you have to be consistent, professional, a continuing writer—not just a one-article or one-story or one-book man.

James Mercer Langston Hughes wrote successfully in a variety of genres, most notably in poetry. His column in the Chicago Defender not only brought him much attention, his novels and plays also reached audiences throughout the country, reflecting a true unvarnished look at the plight of African-American people in the United States in the early part of the 20th century.

His poetry crossed barriers and touched readers at a time when the value of the lives of black Americans was in question. A major force in the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes’ words reached deep into the souls of many people influencing them as he had once been influenced by Carl Sandburg.

His seminal work “A Dream Deferred” (1951) includes the line “Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?” This line later appeared as the title of one of the most important plays of its time and one of the longest running plays ever, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.

In 1941, Hughes founded a theater group in Chicago called The Skyloft Players. Using a modest budget, The Skyloft Players mounted plays and offered a variety of classes encouraging and nurturing black theater artists, specifically playwrights. The focus on the work was creating theater from “the black perspective,” according to the group's first director, Helen Spaulding, 

Soon after the inauguration of the theater group, Hughes went to work for the Chicago Defender. It was through the Defender Hughes introduced readers to his character Jesse B. Semple – known to the readers as Simple. Hughes combined powerful rhetoric with down-home humor to attack or reflect the conditions of African-Americans at the time. He was eloquent and clear – and no injustice escaped his literary wrath. To some, this column was Hughes’ most powerful and relevant work. He became the voice of a people who were beginning to secure their place in society.  Hughes wrote his column for the Defender for 20 years.

Gwendolyn Brooks had already been submitting her work to “Light and Shadows,” the poetry element of the Chicago Defender, when she met Hughes at the age of 16. Hughes was an influence on her illustrious career

In 1949, Hughes spent three months at the integrated Laboratory School of the University of Chicago as a Visiting Lecturer on Poetry. Chicago’s Langston Hughes Elementary School, at 240 W. 104th Street, is named in his honor. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with his likeness in 2002.

As a young man, Hughes was often referred to as the “low-rate poet of Harlem.” As he grew older he became known as "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race," a title he encouraged.

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