I play it cool
And dig all jive.
That’s the reason
I stay alive.
Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) went from the uncertainty and obscurity of being black and poor into the world of artistic and material success, without much but a love of words and boundless energy to make something of himself.
As a young adult, Hughes became a leading figure during the Harlem Renaissance, the decade prior to 1930 which saw an explosive display of creative talent by black writers and artists. But it was his adolescence in Cleveland that shaped him as a writer of novels, short stories, poetry, plays and even music.
Hughes could see through people’s suffering to their wit and capacity to be happy. He came to the job of advancing the cause of African Americans with a sense of what was good about their lives, and this shows through in his writing as a comic spirit blended with deep awareness of the suffering and low expectations felt by African Americans.