James Langston Mercer Hughes was born on this day in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri.
Hughes moved around all over the country as a child but he was a young high school student when he wrote for his Cleveland school newspaper and edited the yearbook. His early writing experience would later lead him to become a pioneer in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.
His first poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” was published in the NAACP’s publication The Crisis. Hughes’s first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published in 1926. For the 40 years to follow, Hughes would go on to write several literary works, including Not Without Laughter, The Ways of White Folks, and his two-book autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander. Throughout his career, he received praise and recognition for his contributions to the literary world.
Hughes died in 1967.
In 2002, 100 years after Hughes’s birth, the U.S. postal service added Langston Hughes to their Black Heritage series of postage stamps.