Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, of mixed -race parents ho divorced when he was still a boy. He was mainly raised by his maternal grandmother in Kansas. She was an activist for voting and civil rights for Black Americans and she taught young Langston the sense of racial pride which was to become the main inspiration for hia literary output.
After his grandmother's death he went to live with his remarried mother in Illinois and Ohio, where he attended high school. During this time he started writing poetry and short stories for the school magazine and read widely.
However, his boyhood was not a happy period and he tried to commit suicide several times. In 1920 he moved to Mexico to live with his father's family and started attending Columbia University, which he had to leave after two years
later because of racial prejudice withtin the institution.
He had several odd jobs and traveled to West Africa and Europe and in 1924 he went back to Washington , D.C . While working as a hotel busboy he met the poet Vachel Lindsay who was greatly impressed by his works and helped him publish his first collection of poems. He enrolled to Lincoln University, a traditionally black University in Pennsylvania, and got a degree in 1929. He then moved to New York and lived in Harlem till his death in 1967. Hughes is considered one of the finest innovators of the new literary art called jazz poetry, which developed in the 1920s. Its main aim was to avoid the
conventions of traditional rhyme and style and produce poetry which "demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the fell of improvisation". Even if initially considered an outsider art form as its main exponents were African-Americans, it was kept alive by the counterculture poets of the Beat Generation in the 1950s and has heavily influenced contemporary hip-hop
music. While living in New York, Hughes came in contact with the Harlem Renaissance (also known as the Black Literary Renaissance and the New Negro Movement ), a cultural movement created by black artists and intellectuals who
wanted to celebrate dignity and creativity through the exploration of the history of black America and the contemporary life experiences of blacks in urban environments. Hughes is particularly remembered for the work he produced in this
cultural context, which stresses racial consciousness and pride. Both his novel Not Without Laughter (1930) and his collection of stories The Ways of White Folks (1934) deal with difficult coexistence of blacks and whites.
Hughes is still considered by the younger generation of black riters as a hero and example to follow.