“The only way to get a thing done is to start to do it, then keep on doing it, and finally you’ll finish it,” a prolific statement spoken by the poet, journalist, social activist, and leader of the Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes. Langston is a world renowned poet who became the central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote novels, short stories, essays, and plays. Through his works, he sought to honestly portray the joys and hardships of working-class black lives, avoiding negative stereotypes and sentimental idealization as described in his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,”
James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin Missouri to parents James Nathaniel Hughes (an attorney) and Caroline Hughes (an actress and school teacher). His parents divorced when he was very young. His father moved to Cuba, and then to Mexico. His mother traveled in search of work while he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston.
He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to New York City where he studied at Columbia University. Having left college early to travel, he gained notice from New York publishers, first in The Crisis magazine and then from book publishers. He eventually graduated from Lincoln University and published his first book in 1926. Langston became well known in the creative community in Harlem. In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote plays, and short stories. He also published several non-fiction works. From 1942 to 1962, as the civil rights movement was gaining traction, he wrote an in-depth weekly column in a leading black newspaper, The Chicago Defender.
On May 22, 1967, Hughes died from complications of prostate cancer. A tribute to his poetry, his funeral was filled with jazz and blues music. His ashes were interred beneath the entrance of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The inscription marking the spot features a line from Langston’s poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” which states “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
His Harlem home, on East 127th Street, received New York City Landmark status in 1981 and was added to the National Register of Places in 1982. Volumes of his work continue to be published and translated throughout the world.
“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
“I swear to the Lord, I still can’t see, Why Democracy means, Everybody but me. ”
“The only way to get a thing done is to start to do it, then keep on doing it, and finally you’ll finish it.”
“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”
“Good morning, Revolution: You’re the very best friend I ever had. We gonna pal around together from now on.”
ReCreate Model: Jose “Suggashack” Delacruz Jr.
ReCreate Photographer: Jasmine Mallory