Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. Both of his paternal great-grandmothers had been slaves, and both of his paternal great-grandfathers had been slave owners. After the separation of his parents, Langston was raised by his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. As a child, he was elected class poet, developing his skills through high school. He briefly attended Columbia University, but left because of . Eventually he earned a degree from Lincoln University, but his literary career had become successful by them, and he made Harlem his primary residence for the remainder of his life.
Any advantage a thriving black commitment to writing may have in settling racial partiality was optional to, as Langston Hughes put it, the "expression of our individual dark skinned selves."
The most prolific writer of the Harlem Renaissance was Langston Hughes.
Shortly thereafter, with the help of critic and art patron Carl Van Vechten, Hughes published his first book, The Weary Blues (1926), a collection of poems that reflect the frenzied atmosphere of Harlem nightlife. Hughes also included several pieces about his travels in Africa, as well as ”The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” a much-anthologized poem Hughes wrote during his second visit to Mexico in 1920. The Weary Blues received mixed reviews, with some critics questioning the motives and appropriateness of using blues and jazz verse to describe Harlem life.
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- The Negro Speaks of Rivers essays discuss a poem by Langston Hughes about how far the African Americans have come throughout history.
The decade was marked by exciting nightlife in Harlems cabarets, particularly the Cotton Club; by the publishing of a great number of novels, short stories, plays, poems, and articles about and by blacks; by great musicals written by and starring blacks, most importantly the legendary ; and by the production of artwork by talented young artists like Aaron Douglas and Richmond Barthe.What made this period significant was the fact that the Negro was in vogue, as Langston Hughes writes in his autobiography .
Langston Hughes was one of the most important writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance, which was the African American artistic movement in the 1920s that celebrated black life and culture.
In June of the same year, another young poet, Langston Hughes, just graduated from high school in Cleveland and soon to enroll at Columbia, published his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers in .
Jazz Poetry Hughes is perhaps most famous for the way in which his poetry is informed by jazz music. The genre is characterized by the poet responding to and writing about jazz, or using the musical sounds and structures of jazz as the basis for poetic forms. Like the music it reflects, jazz poetry encompasses a variety of forms, sounds, and rhythms. Beginning with the birth of blues and jazz at the beginning of the twentieth century, jazz poetry can be seen as a constant running through the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat Generation, and the Black Arts Movement. It is still quite vibrant today. From early blues to experimental music, jazz poets use their love of the genre to inspire their poetry. One of the best examples of Hughes’s use of music to inform his poetry can be found in ”The Weary Blues,” one of his most well known poems. The poem is about a piano player in Harlem, and it captures the flavor of the night life, people, and folk forms that became characteristic of the experimental writing of the Renaissance.