Langston Hughes, a legendary figure in American literature and the Harlem Renaissance made an unforgettable imprint on the globe with his poems, essays, and works of fiction.
His contributions to African-American culture and the larger literary world are still recognized today.
However, his existence is distinguished not just by creative genius but also by the passage of time.
In this article, we delve into the circumstances surrounding the death of Langston Hughes, shedding light on his final days and the legacy he left behind.
Who is Langston Hughes?
Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.
He was also known as James Mercer Langston Hughes. He was born on February 1, 1901.
Hughes is best recognized as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the early founders of the literary art form known as jazz poetry.
He notably wrote about a time when “the Negro was in vogue,” which was eventually shortened to “when Harlem was in vogue.”
Hughes, who grew up in a variety of Midwestern communities, became a prolific writer at a young age.
As a young man, he came to New York City to pursue a profession.
After graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, he enrolled in Columbia University in New York City.
Despite dropping out, he earned attention from New York publishers, first in The Crisis magazine and subsequently from book publishers, and became well-known in Harlem's artistic milieu.
He finally earned his bachelor's degree from Lincoln University.
Hughes also authored plays and short stories in addition to poetry.
He also wrote and published nonfiction. From 1942 to 1962, as the civil rights movement gathered steam, he authored an in-depth weekly column in The Chicago Defender, a notable black newspaper.
How Did Langston Hughes Die?
Hughes died on May 22, 1967, at the age of 66, at the Stuyvesant Polyclinic in New York City, after complications following abdominal surgery for prostate cancer.
His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the entrance of Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
It leads to an auditorium named after him.
The floor design is an African cosmogram called Rivers.
His poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” inspired the title.
The line “My soul has grown deep like the rivers” is located in the center of the cosmogram.
Langston Hughes Sexuality
Some academics and biographers believe Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, as did Walt Whitman, who Hughes claimed impacted his writing.
The story “Blessed Assurance” by Langston Hughes is about a father's rage at his son's effeminacy and “queerness.”
Hughes stayed closeted, according to biographer Aldrich, in order to maintain the respect and support of black churches and groups while avoiding compounding his difficult financial circumstances.
Hughes' principal biographer, Arnold Rampersad, determined that Hughes had a bias against African-American men in his work and life.
In his biography, Rampersad, however, disputes Hughes' homosexuality, concluding that Hughes was most likely asexual and passive in his sexual encounters.
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Hughes, on the other hand, showed respect and affection for his fellow black man (and lady).
Other academics argue for his homosexuality, citing a number of unpublished poems to an alleged black male partner as evidence.