Langston Hughes

The Ohio Connection

As a young teen, Langston Hughes moved to Cleveland because his step-father had found work in the region’s steel mills. The family had previously lived in Joplin, Missouri and Lincoln, Illinois.

It wasn’t long before his mother and step-father moved on, this time to Chicago. But Hughes stayed in Cleveland in order to finish high school. His writing talent was recognized by his teachers, and by his senior year at Central High School Hughes began writing poetry of distinction. His first pieces of verse were published in the Central High Monthly, a sophisticated school magazine. Hughes graduated from Central High in 1920.

Cleveland’s acclaimed Karamu House, the nation’s oldest African-American cultural arts institution, enjoyed a 40-year association with Hughes. He worked with Karamu House to produce many plays at a time when theaters and other public institutions were segregated.

Each year as a holiday treat, Karamu House stages Langston Hughes’ popular play, “Black Nativity.”  In 2002, the city of Cleveland presented a series of yearlong events to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Langston Hughes. The tribute included a local unveiling of a U.S. postage stamp honoring the famous writer.

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