In 1902, Joplin, Missouri gave birth to one of the most revolutionary thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance and indeed American Poetry. Langston Hughes grew up in his grandmother's home in Lawrence, Kansas. During his life, he would travel from Kansas to Illinois to Cleveland, Ohio where, he attended Cleveland High School before moving to Mexico with his father. Thereafter, he moved to New York to study literature at Columbia University, to the dismay of his father.
College was not what Hughes had expected it would be and he later found himself in Paris writing poetry and waiting tables. Hughes's life was primarily migratory but he found a home in Harlem. His first exposure in the literary world came through his contributions to magazines such as The Crisis, The Worker's Monthly, Vanity Fair and Opportunity.
In 1925, his collection The Weary Blues would make a lasting impression on the literary world. More than simply serving as the title to his first book of poems, the title conveyed the idea that black America embodied such a weariness as is only characterized by the blues. Further, the fact that these blues could be called a "Sweet Blues!" forged a narrative of persistence amid adversity that characterized the history of blacks in America.
Initially, Hughes poetry was seen as embodying everything the wealthy black community of the time did not want to express to America about African-Americans. His poetry reflected a certain black cultural experience which black bourgeois intellectuals believed glorified inappropriate and unrepresentative lifestyles they found unacceptable. Rather than accepting the idea that black American was uncultured, Hughes used the very elements American society pointed out as beautiful and revealed their beuaty.
Through infusing his art with the language and structural forms common to blues and jazz music, Hughes uncovered the inherent poetry in the rhythms of this human experience.
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