Born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri; James Mercer Langston Hughes was a leading poet in the Harlem Renaissance, expertly writing multitudes of jazz poetry with his own unique forms.
Strongly influenced by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Walt Whitman, Hughes' first poetry collection was The Weary Blues (1926), and his novel Not Without Laughter won the Harmon Gold Medal for Literature. From novels, to essays, to poetry; Hughes, unlike many poets from the Harlem Renaissance, wrote of the laughter and music of Negroes rather than their suffering and difficulties.
Critic Donald B. Gibson once wrote “Until the time of his [Hughes'] death, he spread his message humorously—though always seriously—to audiences throughout the country, having read his poetry to more people (possibly) than any other American poet.”
Hughes died on May 22, 1965 from prostate cancer. He was 65.