Online Educational Resources

Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

First and Significant Publications of Commonly Taught Texts

  • Hughes, Langston. “After Many Springs.” The Crisis 24, no. 4 (1922): 167.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Beggar Boy.” The Crisis 24, no. 5 (1922): 219.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Danse Africaine.” The Crisis 24, no. 4 (1922): 167.
  • Hughes, Langston. “To a Dead Friend.” The Crisis 41, no. 1 (1922): 32.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Drums.” Negro Digest (October 1964): 53.
  • Hughes, Langston. “The Little Frightened Child.” The Crisis 26, no. 6 (1923): 280.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Monotony.” The Crisis 26, no. 1 (1923): 35.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Mother to Son.” The Crisis 25, no. 2 (1922): 87.
  • Hughes, Langston. “The Negro.” The Crisis 23, no. 3 (1922): 113.
  • Hughes, Langston. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” The Crisis 22, no. 2 (1921): 71.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Poems.” The Crisis 23, no. 5 (1922): 210.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Poems.” The Crisis 26, no. 4 (1923): 162.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Song for a Banjo Dance.The Crisis 24, no. 5 (1922): 267.
  • Hughes, Langston. “Two Poems.” The Crisis 24, no. 2 (1922): 72.
  • Hughes, Langston. “When Sue Wears Red.” The Crisis 25, no. 4 (1923): 174.

Early Reviews of Hughes's Work

Essays and Criticisms

  • “[Hughes] undertook a difficult task when he sought to communicate the poetry of the blues through written words alone…the rigid blues pattern, within which vocal artists and instrumentalists were free to evoke and personalize an entire tradition, was a limitation to the poet. To give artistic expression of permanent value to a form demanding simple diction, repetition, and an elementary rhyme scheme raised problems. Examination of a few of his best blues poems shows Hughes’s contribution of a new verse form to our literature.”—James A. Emanuel. “’Soul’ in the works of Langston Hughes.” Negro Digest 16, no. 11 (September 1967): 25–30, 74–92.
  • In a 1969 article, Woodie King Jr. reflects on meeting and working with Langston Hughes, focusing on King’s work in adapting The Weary Blues for the stage. King, Woodie Jr. “Remembering Langston Hughes.” Negro Digest 18, no. 6 (April 1969): 27–32, 95–96.

Lesson Prompts

  • Langston Hughes died on May 22, 1967. In the September 1967 issue of Negro Digest, numerous writers and poets wrote tributes to Hughes, reflecting on his work and contributions to literature. What do these poems say about Hughes? How do they respond to his death? Pick a poem and analyze it. Does it mention any specific writings by Hughes; if so, which ones and why? What aspect of Hughes does the poem focus on? Does the poem mirror the structure of any of Hughes’s poems?
  • Hughes is often used to represent the entire Harlem Renaissance. Why and how are his poems emblematic of the values and ideas of the Harlem Renaissance? Are there any themes that are constantly present in his works?
  • Watch this video of Hughes reading “The Weary Blues.” Explain the relationship between his poetry and music. Does your interpretation of the poem change when hearing it paired with music? If so, how?
  • Artist Miguel Covarrubias designed the cover of The Weary Blues for Hughes’s 1926 poetry collection. What choices did Covarrubias make to convey the feeling of Hughes’s work? Pick a poem from the collection and create your own cover design. How would your design represent Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance?

Contemporary Interpretations

  • Recordings of actor Ossie Davis reading selections of Hughes’s work.
  • The 2013 film Black Nativity is based on Hughes’s 1961 play of the same title.
  • The 2000 film Cora Unashamed is based on Hughes’s 1934 short story.
  • Afua Richardson’s 2014 illustration of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” offers visual accompaniment to Hughes’s 1921 poem.
  • Musician Leyla McCalla puts the poetry of Langston Hughes to music in her song “Heart of Gold.”

Useful Biographical and Contextual Information