Today in labor history: Poet Langston Hughes was born

On this date in 1902 poet ,activist, and playwright Langston Hughes was born in Joplin Missouri. Considered to be the poet laureate of the African American people, Hughes came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. One of his first poems “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was published by W.E.B. Du Bois in the NAACP’s magazine Crisis. The poem was a stunning debut and gained the young poet wide acclaim. A major contributor to the Renaissance, Hughes was also part of its left contingent along with other writers like Richard Wright who joined the Communist Party. While never joining the CPUSA, Hughes traveled widely including to the young Soviet Union and wrote many radical and pro-working class poems. He was a journalist and for many years wrote for the Chicago Defender. His column introduced the legendary character Simple. He was active in the fight to free the Scotsboro Defendants and was a journalist in Spain during the struggle for the Republic. His plays exploring working-class African American life had a major influence on Broadway and American theater. He wrote two autobiographies, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander. Hughes died in 1967.

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