'My soul has grown deep like the
|Langston Hughes' ashes are buried under a medallion in
the foyer of the Schomburg Library of African American
Culture, Harlem, New York, USA. The design is entitled
Rivers and the words are taken from Hughes' poem
The Negro Speaks of Rivers.
Memorial for Langston Hughes
|Langston Hughes was born in Joplin Missouri. His mother
was a school teacher and his father was a storekeeper
- however they separated when he was young and he was
cared for by his maternal grandmother while his
mother searched for work
After his graduation from
Central High School in Cleveland he attended Columbia
University for a year (where he studied engineeering).
Hughes held a variety of low paid jobs, including seaman on
trips to Europe and America.
While working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel he
Vachel Lindsay who was dining there at the time. Hughes
placed some of his typed poems next to Lindsay's plate. At first, the poet was annoyed but then started to
read them and asked: 'Who wrote these?' with Hughes
replying: 'I did.' Lindsay was so impressed that he
introduced Hughes to publishers who accepted his work. His first book, The Weary Blues, was
published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1925.
Hughes was one
of the early exponents of
Poetry and was one of the first (modern) poets to recite his
poetry to music. However, it was (Nicholas) Vachel Lindsay
credited with inventing Jazz Poetry. Hughes worked with the
famous double bassist Charlie Mingus.
Hughes embarked on a second course at the more racially
integrated Lincoln University with the help of a scholarship
and was able to complete a BA degree - graduating in 1929.
Much of his artistic life was centered around Harlem and
it provided much of the material for his poetry. Two of his
famous poems were set there namely Harlem (Dream
Deferred) (1951) and Night Funeral in Harlem.
Hughes was a significant contributor to the Harlem
He never married and, like his mentor
Walt Whitman, was probably homosexual.
portrayed the lives of working-class blacks and evidenced
their struggles, their joys and their music. He also wrote plays, novels, short stories and essays.
He was part of the 1960s Black Power movement but found many
of the yonger black writers too aggressive in their stance.
He was instumental in helping many younger black writers
including Alice Walker the author of The Color Purple.
He was also influenced by
Carl Sandburg and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
He died in the Polyclinic Hospital at the age of 65.
I 've known rivers
rivers ancient as the world and older than the
human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen
bosom turn all golden in the sunset....
(From The Weary Blues)