February 1, 1902 – Birth of Langston Hughes

James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902. Hughes was a writer whose life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He died of cancer in 1967.

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In addition to leaving a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, Simple Stakes a Claim, Simple Takes a Wife, and Simple’s Uncle Sam. He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography (The Big Sea) and co-wrote the play Mule Bone with Zora Neale Hurston.

One of his most famous poems follows:

“I, Too, Sing America”

I am the darker brother
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong,
Tomorrow,
I’ll sit at the table
When company comes,
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me.
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America”

–Langston Hughes (1926)

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