Study Guide

Langston Hughes Timeline & Important Life Events

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Feb 1, 1902

Langston Hughes Born

Langston Hughes is born in Joplin, Missouri, to James Nathaniel Hughes and Caroline Mercer Langston. Hughes's parents split up when he is very young, and his father moves to Mexico. For most of his childhood, Langston lives with his grandmother in Kansas and then with family friends while his mother travels in search of work.

Dec 19, 2019

Joins Mother in Lincoln

Hughes moves to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his now-remarried mother and stepfather.

Dec 19, 2019

Family Moves to Cleveland

Langston Hughes graduates from primary school and is elected class poet. Soon after, his family settles in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jun 1, 1920

Graduates From High School

Langston Hughes graduates from high school in Cleveland and moves to Mexico to be with his father. On the train to see him, Hughes pens the poem "The N**** Speaks of Rivers." While Hughes is in Mexico, Hughes's father agrees to fund his education at Columbia University, on the grounds that Hughes study engineering in college.

Dec 19, 2019

"The N**** Speaks of Rivers"

"The N**** Speaks of Rivers" is published in the NAACP journal Crisis.

Dec 19, 2019

Hughes Leaves Columbia

Though Hughes loves the vibrant arts and social scene in Harlem, he is disappointed by the racial discrimination he encounters in college. Hughes leaves Columbia University after just one year.

Dec 19, 2019

S.S. Malone

Hughes gets a job aboard the S.S. Malone and, for six months, travels by freighter to West Africa and Europe. He works briefly as a cook in Paris.

Nov 1, 1924

Hughes Is Discovered

Hughes moves to Washington, D.C. While bussing tables at the Wardman Park Hotel, Hughes notices the poet Vachel Lindsay dining in the restaurant and slips some of his poems on Lindsay's table. Lindsay puts the young poet in touch with editors at Knopf.

Dec 19, 2019

The Weary Blues

Hughes's first book, a poetry collection entitled The Weary Blues, is published by Alfred A. Knopf publishing house.

Dec 19, 2019

Fine Clothes to the Jew

Hughes's second poetry collection, Fine Clothes to the Jew, is published.

Dec 19, 2019

Graduates from College

Hughes receives a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, which he attended on scholarship. He then moves back to New York City, his home for the rest of his life.

Dec 19, 2019

Not Without Laughter

Not Without Laughter, Hughes's debut novel, is published. It earns Hughes the Harmon Gold Medal for Literature.

Dec 19, 2019

Works in the Soviet Union

Hughes travels with a group of African-American artists to the Soviet Union, to make a film about the black experience in the United States. The film is never completed but, like many black intellectuals of the period, Hughes is drawn to communism as an alternative to the racial prejudice prevalent in the United States.

Dec 19, 2019

Father Dies

The Ways of White Folks, Hughes' first short story collection, is published. This same year, his father passes away.

Dec 19, 2019

Guggenheim Fellowship

Hughes is awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship. His play The Mulatto is his first to open on Broadway.

Dec 19, 2019

Mother Dies, Covers Spanish Civil War

Hughes's mother dies. He also covers the Spanish Civil War as a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper. Legend has it that Hughes befriends fellow correspondent Ernest Hemingway, and the two writers attend bullfights together.

Dec 19, 2019

Harlem Suitcase Theater

Hughes establishes the Harlem Suitcase Theater, a showcase for black American drama in New York City.

Dec 19, 2019

New N**** Theater

Hughes establishes the New N**** Theater in Los Angeles. He co-writes the screenplay for his first film, Way Down South.

Dec 19, 2019

Rosenwald Fellowship

Langston Hughes is awarded the Rosenwald Fellowship, a prize given to talented African-American scholars.

Dec 19, 2019

Skyloft Players

Hughes founds Skyloft Players, a theater in Chicago.

Dec 19, 2019

Honorary Doctorate

Hughes's alma mater, Lincoln University, awards him an honorary doctorate of letters.

Dec 19, 2019

National Institute of Arts and Letters

Langston Hughes is elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, a 250-member organization whose self-described goal is to "foster, assist, and sustain excellence in American literature, music, and art."

Dec 19, 2019

Begins Teaching Career

Hughes's poetry collection Field of Wonder is published. Hughes accepts a one-year appointment as a visiting professor of creative writing at Atlanta University.

Dec 19, 2019

Teaches in Chicago

Hughes begins a one-year appointment as a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Dec 19, 2019

Montage of a Dream Deferred

The poetry collection Montage of a Dream Deferred is published. It contains the famous poem, "Harlem," which begins, "What happens to a dream deferred?"

Dec 19, 2019

Laughing to Keep From Crying

Hughes publishes the short story collection Laughing to Keep From Crying.

Mar 26, 1953

Questioned by McCarthy

Hughes is called before Senator Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and is questioned about his previous involvement with communism. Hughes later distances himself from communism and his radical poetry, which prompts criticism from some on the left.

Dec 19, 2019

Simple Takes a Wife

Hughes's book Simple Takes a Wife is published. It is one of several books written from the point of view of his comic fictional character Jesse B. Simple, a Harlem resident who frequently appears in Hughes's columns. The book receives the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, which honors writing that tackles racism and diversity.

Dec 19, 1960

Spingarn Medal

Hughes receives the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for outstanding achievement by a black American.

Dec 19, 1961

American Academy of Arts and Letters

Hughes is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes Dies

Langston Hughes dies of complications from prostate cancer. The New York City Preservation Commission later makes his home at 20 East 127th Street a city landmark.

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