Meet Langston Hughes, the"People's Poet"

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1901, and died on May 22, 1967.

Langston Hughes at work in his office. He holds a pencil as he sits in front of his typewriter at his desk.

As a poet, author, and columnist, Hughes used his talents to showcase the beauty, challenges, and strength of the African American community.

How does Langston Hughes's poetry impact us today? 

It encourages us to dream big as we deal with adversity.

1. Celebrate Who You Are

A mural image of people from diverse backgrounds under a night sky. Photo by Miles Peacock on Unsplash

Langston Hughes aimed to capture the lives and experiences of African Americans in his poetry.

Hughes's poem "My People" celebrates the working class.



Ladies’ maids,




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He calls us all dreamers, singers, and storytellers to show that we're more than just our jobs.

Dream-singers all,

Story-tellers all.


In the last line, "Laughers at the hands of fate", Hughes urges us to find joy regardless of our situation. 

2. Persevere in the Face of Adversity

Quote: "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame."

Langston Hughes was an influential leader during the Harlem Renaissance.

A woman wearing a 1920s dress singing and dancing on a stage in a night club.

His poetry "confronted racial stereotypes" and educated his audience on the unique experiences, history, and identity of African Americans.

Listen to Hughes recite his poem "I, Too" in the video below:

"I, Too" helped define the Harlem Renaissance.

Hughes starts the poem by talking about the challenges and oppression people experience.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Yet, he finishes with optimism, saying "And grow strong," highlighting our resilience.

A person on the top of a mountain. Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash

He continues with a call for equality.


I'll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody'll dare

Say to me

'Eat in the kitchen,'


3. Hold Fast Your Dreams

A a person looking at the night sky. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Hughes had big dreams. He used his poetry to celebrate beauty, culture, and history, and to speak up for equal rights for African Americans.

Hold fast to dreams 

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

Listen as Langston Hughes reads his poem "Dreams" in the video below:

"Dreams" encourages us to:

  • hold on to our dreams

  • let our dreams fuel progress

  • know without dreams, life is dull and unchanging


What is the main message of Hughes's poem "Dreams?"

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Langston Hughes posing for a photo in front of a wall covered in newspaper clippings.

What can we learn from Langston Hughes, the "People's Poet"?


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