Langston Hughes was an innovator of Jazz poetry, a prolific writer and one of the principal voices of the Harlem Renaissance.

  • In 1921, his poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” was published in The Crisis.
  • In 1924 Hughes received an Opportunity award for first prize in poetry for “The Wary Blues.”
  • Carl Van Vechten was an American writer and artistic photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Van Vechten was a lifelong friend of Hughes. He helped Hughes get published in Vanity Fair in 1925 and supported his work over many years.
  • By 1926, Hughes was the leader of the literary “new school” of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Hughes experimented with several genres. His first novel, Not without Laughter (Knopf, 1930) won the Harrison Prize for Literature.
  • He had some success writing plays. Some of his poems were set to music, and during the 1940s he tried his hand at writing song lyrics.
  • In 1942, Hughes began writing a column for the Chicago Defender, which would run for twenty years.
  • In the 1930s, Hughes was attracted to the ideals of the Communist Party which offered an alternative to segregation and racism. After appearing before McCarthy’s subcommittee, Hughes’ productivity as a poet dwindled. However, he remained an editor and an influential figure in the African American community until his death.


  1. Eakins Press Foundation