Throughout the life ofLangston Hughes he presented ideas in his writings thathelp to define his perception of the American dream. Inbeginning, Langston Hughes was born on February 1,1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father was James NathanielHughes, a man who studied law but was unable to take theexamination for the bar because he was black. His motherwas Carrie Hughes, a woman who studied at the Universityof Kansas in an ongoing struggle to earn a living outside ofdomestic labor.
Langston’s father left home to live in Cubaand then Mexico to free himself from the Jim Crow lawsand Segregation. Hughes then went to live with hisgrandmother in Lawrence, Kansas until he was thirteen. Hisgrandmother, Mary Sampson Patterson Leary Langston,was very prominent in the African American community ofLawrence. Her first husband was killed at Harper’s Ferrywhile fighting with John Brown; her second husband,Hughes’ grandfather, was a prominent politician in Kansasduring the Reconstruction. During the time that he lived withhis grandmother, however, she was old and poor resultingin little to eat and forcing them to rent out part of their smallhouse.
Unable to give Langston the attention he neededand his feelings of hurt and rejection by both his mother andfather caused him to grow up very insecure and unsure ofhimself. In the second grade Langston was introduced tobooks and soon became fascinated with them and found itas an escape from his world into the wonderful world insideof them. At the age of thirteen Hughes went to live with hismother in Lincoln, Illinois and then Cleveland, Ohio wherehe went to high school. It was in Lincoln that Hughes wrotehis first poem after being elected class poet by his fellowclassmates.
Hughes, the only black at his school, said thatthe only reason that he was elected was that his peers feltthat he must have a good sense of rhythm because of thecolor of his skin. This position of class poet sparkedHughes’ love for poetry and was the start of his life as apoet. Hughes soon began to write poetry quite frequentlyand he kept it all in a journal secret from other people. Langston Hughes is most famous for his poetry yet he alsohad a number of different careers throughout his lifetime. He was an author, poet, playwright, song lyricist, andlecturer starting in 1921. In the years of 1920-1921 he wasan English teacher in Mexico.
In the years of 1949-1950Hughes can be credited with founding community theatresin major cities across the United States such as Harlem,Los Angeles, and Chicago. In following, what is theAmerican Dream? When asked, this question wouldreceive a variety of responses, yet the main response wouldprobably be freedom. The denotative meaning of theAmerican dream is given in the Random House Dictionary:1. The ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunitytraditionally held to be available to every American. 2. Alife of personal happiness and material comfort astraditionally sought by individuals in the U.
S. (66) ManyAmericans persist in believing that America is the greatestcountry in the world and that man is basically good and canbe better and has the opportunity to fulfill his productivecapabilities. “The belief that America should offer equalopportunity to all men is a fundamental part of theAmerican dream.”(Werner XI) History