The People's Poet

Langston Hughes is one of America's most popular writers and forever associated with the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that brought Black culture into the American mainstream. He started his career as a poet in the 1920s. His novel, Not Without Laughter (1930), won the Harmon Foundation Gold Award for Literature, but he was more enamored with the stage, writing plays and musicals that subverted the form. The most famous of these, Black Nativity, has been staged every year since its first production in 1961. Meanwhile, Hughes created the character Jesse B. Semple, AKA “Simple”—an iconic, hilarious and popular Black everyman whose adventures and reflections reveal essential truths about the Black American experience. Langston Hughes lived to witness the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is remembered as a leading and influential voice that put Black intellectuals on the map.

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