Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a prolific poet, writer, and playwright known for his use of rhythm and language. His writing style took cues from everyday life as well as jazz and blues music. Born James Mercer Langston Hughes in Joplin, Missouri, he only lived there a short time before moving with his family to Cleveland, Ohio. Hughes later moved to New York, and studied at Columbia University for one year, but left so he could travel. Hughes’s poetry began to get noticed in the 1920s, the time of the Harlem Renaissance. He became friends with Carl Van Vechten, who was some 20 years his senior, and Van Vechten aided Hughes in gaining exposure for his poetry through readings and publications. The Weary Blues, his first book of poetry, was published in 1926, and he continued to write and publish throughout his life. An enthusiast of art forms Hughes participated in arts events around the world, including during his travels to Trinidad, Cuba, and Haiti.

In January of 1932, Hughes was in Miami doing a few readings, and he sent a postcard to Van Vechten. He wrote:

“Hey Carl –

This is the southern
tip of my tour – two
readings here – today
and tomorrow. Swell
sunlight – and chicken.

– postcard from the Van Vechten Collection at the The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, and located with the assistance of Cookie Woolner. Thank you also to Nathan Connolly and Matthew Casey for assisting in research about Langston Hughes’s time in Miami.



Langston Hughes gave a reading in Pharr’s Funeral Home

During one trip to Miami, Langston Hughes gave several readings around the city. In his autobiography he recalled, "In Miami, I gave a program in an undertakers' parlor, since Negroes had no auditorium there" (51). It is likely that the undertakers' parlor Hughes referred to was Pharr's Funeral Home, owned and operated by Kelsey Pharr.  

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