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Langston Hughes
Born: February 1, 1902 - Joplin, Missouri
Died: May 22, 1967 - New York City, New York


Hughes first came to notice when his poem "The Negro Speaks Of Rivers," written the summer after his graduation from high school in Cleveland, was published in the NAACP journal Crisis (1921).
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Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, Montage of a Dream Deferred and Their Eyes Were Watching God
C-SPAN's Video Library: Langston Hughes & Zora Neale Hurston
After briefly attending Columbia University (1921-22), he worked as a steward on a freighter bound for Africa, later sojourning in Paris and Rome. Upon his return he took a variety of menial jobs while continuing to write. While working as a busboy in a hotel in Washington, D.C., Hughes put three of his poems beside the plate of Vachel Lindsay in the dining room. The next day, newspapers around the country reported that Lindsay had discovered a Negro busboy poet. A scholarship to Lincoln University followed, and before Hughes received his degree in 1929 his first two books had been published.

The Weary Blues (1926), which includes "Dream Variation," was warmly received. Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927) was criticized harshly for its title and its frankness, but Hughes himself felt it represented a step forward. A few months after graduation, Not Without Laughter (1930), his first novel, had a cordial reception. In 1931 he collaborated with Zora Neale Hurston on the play Mule Bone. In the 1930s he traveled widely in the Soviet Union, Haiti, and Japan and served as a newspaper correspondent (1937) in the Spanish Civil War; his poetry of the era became highly political. His Montage of a Dream Deferred, containing the famous poem "Harlem," was published in 1951. A posthumous book of poems, The Panther and the Lash (1967), reflected the anger and militancy of blacks in the 1960s.

Works by Langston Hughes
The Weary Blues (1926)
Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927)
Not Without Laughter (1930)
Mule Bone (1931)
Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)
The Panther and the Lash (1967)
Hughes's nonpoetical literary output was highly diverse. In 1934 he published a collection of short stories, The Ways of White Folks. He wrote A Pictorial History of the Negro in America (1956) and edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro (1949) and The Book of Negro Folklore (1958; with Arna Bontemps). He produced two volumes of autobiography, The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956). His numerous works for the stage included the lyrics for Kurt Weill's "American opera" Street Scene. He translated the poetry of Federico García Lorca and Gabriela Mistral. He was widely known for his comic character Jesse B. Semple, nicknamed Simple, who appeared in Hughes's columns in the Chicago Defender and the New York Post, later collected in several volumes.

Zora Neale Hurston
Born: January 7, 1901? - Eatonville, Florida
Died: January 28, 1960 - Fort Pierce, Florida

Hurston attended Howard University and won a scholarship to Barnard College, where she studied anthropology with Franz Boas.
Though she initially practiced scientific ethnology along the lines taught by Boas, she ultimately rejected the conventional academic anthropology in favor of personal involvement with her heritage.

Works by Zora Neale Hurston
Mule Bone (1931)
Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934)
Mules and Men (1935)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Tell My Horse (1938)
Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
Seraph on the Suwanee (1948)

In 1931 she collaborated with Langston Hughes on the play Mule Bone. Her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), was well received, though some critics considered it uneven. Her second novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), was widely acclaimed but controversial among blacks because of her refusal to portray blacks as victims of the myth of inferiority. Her later novels were Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939) and Seraph on the Suwanee (1948). Hurston's fiction, which influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison, is celebratory in tone and rooted in a rural black South reminiscent of her hometown, and her characters act freely within their rich heritage and narrow social position. Mules and Men (1935), about Florida blacks, and Tell My Horse (1938), about Haiti and voodoo, were both ethnographic works. Dust Tracks on a Road (1942) is her autobiography. Hurston's increasing conservatism in her later years, which led her to oppose school integration, alienated her from many of her black contemporaries.

Web sites about Hughes & Hurston
Langston Hughes: The Academy of American Poets
Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes: Voice Among Voices
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston: Voices from the Gaps
Perspectives in American Literature: Zora Neale Hurston


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