Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Through compromise and fear.
My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
In the Quarter of the Negroes
Where the doors are doors of paper
Dust of dingy atoms
Blows a scratchy sound.
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all your
I know I am
The Negro Problem
Being wined and dined,
Answering the usual questions
Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an American poet, novelist, playwright, and social activist who is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of great cultural and artistic growth among African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s. He was born in Joplin, Missouri, and raised primarily by his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. Hughes began writing poetry as a teenager and continued to hone his craft throughout his life. His poetry often addressed issues of race, poverty, and social injustice, and he was known for his ability to capture the rhythms and vernacular of African American speech in his writing. Hughes published his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, in 1926, and went on to publish many more books of poetry, as well as novels, plays, and essays. Some of his most famous works include the poetry collections Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) and The Panther and the Lash (1967) and the play A Raisin in the Sun (1959), which explored the experiences of African American families living in Chicago. In addition to his writing, Hughes was also an outspoken social activist who used his platform to advocate for civil rights and equality. He traveled extensively, speaking out against racism and oppression, and his work inspired many other artists and writers during the civil rights movement. Hughes died in 1967 at the age of 65. His legacy as a pioneering African American writer and activist continues to be celebrated and studied today, and his poetry remains popular and influential around the world.
Langston Hughes was the second child of schoolteacher Carrie (Caroline) Mercer Langston and James Nathaniel Hughes. He was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1871–1934. Both of Hughes' paternal and maternal great-grandmothers were African-American, also his maternal great-grandfather was white and Scottish. His paternal great-grandfather was Jewish from Europe. Mary Patterson, who is Hughes' maternal grandmother, was of African-American, French, English, and Native American ancestry. Hughes' father abandoned his family and subsequently divorced Carrie, fleeing to Cuba and then Mexico to escape the country's ongoing racism. Langston Hughes was reared mostly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas, when his parents divorced and his mother went looking for work. Through the black American oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled in the young Langston Hughes a lasting sense of racial pride. His youth was not altogether pleasant due to his turbulent upbringing, but it strongly influenced the poet he would become. Hughes was named class poet in Lincoln when he was in elementary school. In retrospect, Hughes believes it was due to the preconception that African Americans have a sense of rhythm. "I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everyone knows, except us, that all Negroes have rhythm, so they elected me as class poet." Then, he wrote for the school newspaper, edited the yearbook, and began writing his first short stories, poems, and theatrical plays in high school in Cleveland, Ohio. Hughes went to Mexico after high school in the hopes of reconciling with his father, who resided there, but he was unsuccessful. Hughes was adamant about being a writer, despite his father's wishes for him to pursue a practical job. He was studying engineering at his father's request. But he left in 1922 because of racial prejudice, and his interests revolved more around the neighborhood of Harlem than his studies, though he continued writing poetry.
Hughes returned to the United States in November 1924 to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. Hughes worked at a variety of jobs before landing a white-collar job at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1925 as a personal assistant to historian Carter G. Woodson. Hughes abandoned his job as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel because the responsibilities of his job hindered his time for writing. He met poet Vachel Lindsay there, with whom he exchanged several poems. Lindsay advertised his discovery of a new black poet after being impressed by the poetry. Hughes' previous work had been published in journals at this time, and he was ready to publish his first book of poetry. After this year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Pennsylvania. Hughes after graduating from Lincoln University in 1929, he returned to New York. Apart from travels to the Soviet Union and parts of the Caribbean, Hughes lived in Harlem as his primary home for the remainder of his life. Some biographers and academics today credit that Hughes was homosexual and inclusive homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman. Hughes's story "Blessed Assurance" deals with a father's fury over his son's effeminacy and "queerness". To retain the respect and support of black churches and organizations and avoid exacerbating his precarious financial situation, Hughes remained closeted.
Hughes died from complications after surgery, related to prostate cancer, at the age of 65, on May 22, 1967. His ashes are interred under a floor medallion in the middle of the anteroom in the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The design on the floor plating his ashes is an African cosmogram titled Rivers. The title is taken from his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Within the center of the cosmogram, above his ashes, is the line: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers".
He published his first collection of poetry, The Weary Blues, in 1926. He had also published a second collection of poetry, Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927), which was criticized by some for its title and for its frankness. After Hughes’s graduation, Not Without Laughter (1930), his first prose volume, had reception. In the 1930s he turned his poetry more forcefully toward racial justice and political radicalism. In 1931, he visited the American South and condemned the Scottsboro case; he then traveled in the Soviet Union, Haiti, Japan, and other parts of the world, as well as serving as a newspaper journalist during the Spanish Civil War (1937). He got extensively interested in theater after publishing The Ways of White Folks (1934), a collection of short stories. Mulatto, a play based on one of his short tales, opened on Broadway in 1935, and numerous additional plays were produced in the late 1930s. In addition, he established theater groups in Harlem (1937) and Los Angeles (1938). (1939). Hughes wrote The Big Sea, his autobiography up to the age of 28, in 1940. I Wonder As I Wander, a second volume of autobiography, was released in 1956. Hughes wrote what would be considered the manifesto published in The Nation in 1926, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too. The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain free within ourselves His poetry and fiction depicted the lives of African-American working-class people in America, depicting as full of hardship, love, laughter, and song. His art is infused with pride in the African-American identity and culture. Hughes is cited as stating, "My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind." He challenged racial stereotypes, criticized socioeconomic circumstances, and extended African America's perception of itself as a "people's poet" who aimed to reeducate both audience and artist by bringing the notion of the black aesthetic to life. The poem "My People'' is an example of this: The night is beautiful, So the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful, So the eyes of my people Beautiful, also, is the sun. Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. Stage and Film Depictions Hughes's life has been depicted in many stage and film productions. Hannibal of the Alps by Michael Dinwiddie and Paper Armor by Eisa Davis are plays by African-American playwrights which deal with Hughes's sexuality. In the 1989 film, Looking for Langston, British filmmaker Isaac Julien claimed Hughes as a black gay icon — Julien thought that Hughes' sexuality had historically been ignored or downplayed. In the film Get on the Bus, directed by Spike Lee, a black gay character, played by Isaiah Washington, invokes the name of Hughes and punches a homophobic character while commenting, "This is for James Baldwin and Langston Hughes." Film portrayals of Hughes include Gary LeRoi Gray's role as a teenage Hughes in the 2003 short subject film Salvation (based on a portion of his autobiography The Big Sea) and Daniel Sunjata as Hughes in the 2004 film Brother to Brother. Hughes' Dream Harlem, a documentary by Jamal Joseph, examines Hughes' works and environment. Literary Archives The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University holds the Langston Hughes papers (1862–1980) and the Langston Hughes collection (1924–1969) containing letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, artworks, and objects that document the life of Hughes. The Langston Hughes Memorial Library on the campus of Lincoln University, as well as at the James Weldon Johnson Collection within the Yale University also hold archives of Hughes' work. Honors and Awards 1943, Lincoln University awarded Hughes an honorary Litt.D. 1960, the NAACP awarded Hughes the Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievements by an African American. 1961 National Institute of Arts and Letters. 1963 Howard University awarded Hughes an honorary doctorate. 1973, the first Langston Hughes Medal was awarded by the City College of New York. 1979, Langston Hughes Middle School was created in Reston, Virginia. 1981, New York City Landmark status was given to the Harlem home of Langston Hughes at 20 East 127th Street by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and 127th St. was renamed Langston Hughes Place. The Langston Hughes House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. 2002 The United States Postal Service added the image of Langston Hughes to its Black Heritage series of postage stamps. 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Langston Hughes on his list of 100 Greatest 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.
I was so sick last night I Didn't hardly know my mind. So sick last night I Didn't know my mind. I drunk some bad licker that Almost made me blind.
Way Down South in Dixie (Break the heart of me) They hung my black young lover To a cross roads tree.
Love is a naked shadow On a gnarled and naked tree.
I swear to the Lord I still can't see Why Democracy means Everybody but me.
here to this college on the hill above Harlem I am the only colored student in my class.
So will my page be colored that I write? Being me, it will not be white. But it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white— yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me— although you're older—and white— and somewhat more free. This is my page for English B.
I've known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
While over Alabama earth These words are gently spoken: Serve—and hate will die unborn. Love—and chains are broken.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk. The rain makes running pools in the gutter. The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—
Babies and gin and church And women and Sunday All mixed with dimes and Dollars and clean spittoons And house rent to pay.
Clean the spittoons. The steam in hotel kitchens, And the smoke in hotel lobbies, And the slime in hotel spittoons: Part of my life.
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
Night coming tenderly Black like me.
Brown sugar lassie, Caramel treat, Honey-gold baby Sweet enough to eat. Peach-skinned girlie,
They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America.
I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes,
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.
I could take the Harlem night and wrap around you, Take the neon lights and make a crown, Take the Lenox Avenue buses, Taxis, subways, And for your love song tone their rumble down.
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?
“Life is for the living. Death is for the dead. Let life be like music. And death a note unsaid.”
“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”
“I went down to the river, I set down on the bank. I tried to think but couldnt, So I jumped in and sank.”
“Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.”
“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
“Looks like what drives me crazy Dont have no effect on you-- But Im gonna keep on at it Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I loved my friend He went away from me Theres nothing more to say The poem ends, Soft as it began- I loved my friend.”
“Harlem What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
“I stay cool, and dig all jive, Thats the way I stay alive. My motto, as I live and learn, is Dig and be dug In return.”
“Folks, Im telling you, birthing is hard and dying is mean- so get yourself a little loving in between.”
“Oh, God of Dust and Rainbows, Help us to see That without the dust the rainbow Would not be.”
“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that can not fly. Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go life is a barren field frozen with snow.”
“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. Tomorrow, Ill be at the table When company comes. Nobodyll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, Theyll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed-- I, too, am America.”
“Though you may hear me holler, And you may see me cry-- Ill be dogged, sweet baby, If you gonna see me die.”
“So since Im still here livin, I guess I will live on. I couldve died for love-- But for livin I was born.”
“Humor is laughing at what you havent got when you ought to have it.”
“To some people Love is given, To others Only Heaven.”
“Gather out of star-dust, Earth-dust, Cloud-dust, Storm-dust, And splinters of hail, One handful of dream-dust, Not for sale.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still cant see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”
“Ive known rivers: Ive known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
“I asked you, baby, If you understood- You told me that you didnt, But you thought you would.”
“Out of love, No regrets-- Though the goodness Be wasted forever. Out of love, No regrets-- Though the return Be never.”
“...the only way to get a thing done is to start to do it, then keep on doing it, and finally youll finish it,....”
“Yet the ivory gods, And the ebony gods, And the gods of diamond-jade, Are only silly puppet gods That people themselves Have made.-”
“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: Youre the very best friend I ever had. We gonna pal around together from now on”
“The calm, Cool face of the river, Asked me for a kiss”