Langston Hughes was one of the most influential writers and commentators of his time, which is rather remarkable considering his father insisted that he become an engineer.. He left college after just a year because of the racial prejudices that he experienced there. After spending some time in Europe, he enrolled in Lincoln University, where one of his classmates was Thurgood Marshall, who would later become a Supreme Court justice.
Hughes may be known as one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, but here are some fun facts about this legendary man that you may not have known about already.
1. He Was Interested In Communism
Hughes was looking for alternatives to segregation that might be viable. That’s why he was interested in Communism. He even toured the Soviet Union and traveled throughout the country to see how Communism worked. His overall lack of interest helped to avoid any serious consequences from the McCarthyism that would soon follow.
2. He Wrote His Most Famous Poem When He Was A Teen
The Negro Speaks of Rivers is one of Hughes’ best known works and he wrote it when he was still young. The famous line “My soul has grown deep like the rivers” was used as his epitaph. Over the course of his career, he would write children’s books, plays, and he even edited a literary magazine.
3. There’s An Award Named After Him
The City College of New York annually recognizes an influential African American writer with the Langston Hughes Medal. This is a lasting testament to the legacy that this prolific writer left the world through his words.
4. His Autobiography Was Published At The Age Of 28
Called The Big Sea, his work was popular because his voice related to the growing consciousness of the African-American population. Through his regular column and his comic character that was known as “Simple,” he proved that there was value to every African-American life in the US.
5. His Home In Harlem Has Become A Landmark
Hughes lived on East 127th Street in Harlem for much of his writing life. The state of New York made the home a landmark in 1981 and it was added to the National Register of Places just a year later.
When Langston Hughes wasn’t writing, you could find him promoting the work of other authors. He didn’t write to become an academic. He wanted to give a voice to the average person who was struggling in their pursuit of happiness. Because of this, his influence is still felt even today, nearly 50 years after his death.