Langston Hughes Biography: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson talks about Langston Hughes, a famous African-American poet and writer who wrote during the Harlem Renaissance. Learn about his career and how his life affected his writing.

Who Is Langston Hughes?

In the 1920s, African Americans in the United States faced racism and didn't have equal rights. But Harlem, New York, was a very exciting place for African Americans at this time. Talented African-American writers, artists, and musicians thrived (did well) there and told the world what it was like to be African American during a movement called the Harlem Renaissance.

Langston Hughes was right in the middle of it all. He was a writer who was proud of his African-American heritage and culture. He wrote about equality and racism in poems, newspapers, kid's books, and stories.


Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Missouri. His grandfather had fought against slavery. He spent most of his time with his grandmother in Kansas after his parents separated. After his grandmother died, Langston moved to be with his mother and stepfather.

Even as a kid, Langston was a talented writer. When he was in eighth grade and the only African American student in class, the other kids made him the class poet. His poem was read at the class graduation. How do you think he felt?

Langston Hughes in high school

Becoming a Writer

Langston spent a few summers in Mexico with his dad. On one of these trips, he wrote a famous poem called 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers.' The poem is supposed to be the voice of African Americans and shows their spirit and strength. Being African American is the subject Langston Hughes would write about throughout his life.

Langston had many different jobs. He traveled by ship to Africa and around Europe and wrote for a newspaper. While working at a hotel in Washington, D.C., Langston saw a famous poet (Vachel Lindsay) eating there. Langston wanted him to read his poems, so he put three of his poems on Vachel's table. He loved Langston's work and publicized his talents in a newspaper. Soon after this experience, Hughes received a scholarship at Lincoln University, and he earned his bachelor's degree in 1929.

Harlem Renaissance

While living in Harlem in the 1920s, Langston played an important role in the Harlem Renaissance. This movement celebrated African-American art, music, and writing and gave African Americans the opportunity to freely express pride in their race and culture.

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