Archive: Langston Hughes

Neda Semnani charts the life of a merchant sailor turned Harlem literary colossus.

  • Words Neda Semnani

“Above all, Hughes was a poet. He wrote on and on, until he ran clear out of days.”

In a train outside of St. Louis sat a young Langston Hughes. He had graduated from high school some weeks earlier and, though he should have been excited for the big life about to unfold before him, he was in a melancholic and reflective mood. He stared out of the window, considering the great Mississippi River moving southward into the heart of segregated America.

He thought of his father, a black man whom Hughes believed hated both his blackness and his people. As Hughes looked over the river, he remembered the story he had once read about President Lincoln floating on a raft down the Mississippi and then he thought of other powerful waterways that feature prominently in the history of black Americans.

He pulled out an envelope from his pocket, turned it over and began to write a poem...


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