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Langston Hughes is one of the most celebrated and well-known writers of the Harlem Renaissance era. Here are a few little-known facts about this celebrated American writer.
- Hughes attended Columbia University in pursuit of an engineering degree at the behest of his father. Despite his obvious aptitude for writing, he dropped out after a year to travel to Europe and Africa.
- When he returned to America, he finally did receive his BA in English from the historically black college, Lincoln University, where he counted future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall as one of his classmates.
- While he was best known as a poet, he also published many novels, short stories, works of nonfiction plays and children’s books.
- His play “Mulatto” opened on Broadway in 1935.
- During his travels to the Soviet Union, he became fascinated with the concept of Communism, and many of his early works reflect this. It is because of these works that he was detained for questioning during the height of McCarthyism, but his interest was deemed not deep enough to warrant further investigation. After that his work became more self-reflective and spiritual than political.
- His most famous poem “Negro Speaks of Rivers” was published when he was still a teenager. The line from this poem “my soul has grown deep as the rivers” was used as his epitaph.
- An urn containing Hughes’s ashes are embedded in a mural depicting the four rivers he mentions in his famous poem ” Negro Speaks of Rivers” (the Euphrates, the Congo, the Nile and the Mississippi). The mural is featured at the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.
- Hughes was awarded the Spingarn Medal for his achievements as a writer by the NAACP.
- Hughes died of complications following a surgery for prostate cancer. He was 65 when he died.
- The City College of New York annually recognizes talented African American writers with the Langston Hughes Medal.
- His autobiography “The Big Sea” was published when he was only 28.
- Hughes’s home at East 127th Street in Harlem has become a national registered landmark