Langston Hughes

February 1, 1902 — May 22, 1967

Harlem Renaissance poet, novelist, and activist

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was one of the most beloved poets of the Harlem Renaissance era. Known for his lyrical brand of “jazz poetry” and his lively portrayal of everyday life for working-class blacks, Hughes was one of the most critically acclaimed writers of his time. His best-known poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” was published in 1921, and he went on to win the Harmon Gold Medal for his first novel, Not Without Laughter, in 1930. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935.1

Themes of dissatisfaction and disillusionment with religion are prominent in Hughes’s stories and poetry, most notably in his 1940 short story “Salvation,” in his 1966 play The Trouble with Angels, and in his 1932 poem “Goodbye Christ.” A firm realist, Hughes rejected the idea that religion was necessary for the restoration of his people’s dignity and preferred to uplift and inspire by celebrating black life and culture.

  1. “Langston Hughes.” From the Academy of American Poets.