On this day in 1967, Langston Hughes passed away due to complications after abdominal surgery related to prostate cancer. He was 65 years old.
Born in Joplin, Missouri on Feb. 1, 1902, Hughes would go onto become one of the most iconic figures of the Harlem Renaissance, which would include Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and many others.
He was first published in 1921 “The Crisis,” which was the magazine for of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He would release a collection of poems all throughout the 1920s that included “The Weary Blues, “Fine Clothes to the Jew,” “The Negro Mother and Other Dramatic Recitation,” “Dear Lovely Death” and “The Dream Keeper and Other Poems.”
He also wrote novels and short stories like “Not Without Laughter,” “Laughing to Keep from Crying,” “Simple Speaks His Mind” and, one of his most famous, “The Ways of White Folks.”
Hughes’ work was deeply political and unapologetically Black. In 1926, he wrote for “The Nation,” “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”
Hughes’ legacy still lives on. His work has been featured in films, plays, music and is a staple in American culture, especially in the Black community.
See some of his most iconic words below, which are still seriously relevant in 2019.