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Langston Hughes

Carl Van Vechten, 17 Jun 1880 - 21 Dec 1964
Langston Hughes, 1 Feb 1902 - 22 May 1967
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14.1 x 21.4cm (5 9/16 x 8 7/16")
Mat: 35.6 x 45.7cm (14 x 18")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Prentiss Taylor
Restrictions & Rights
© Carl Van Vechten Trust
Object number
Langston Hughes: American\African American
Exhibition Label
The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was fueled by community and racial pride led by cultural leaders in African American society such as author and poet Langston Hughes. Born and raised in the Midwest, Hughes was educated at Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) after leaving Columbia University, in part because of its racism. He lived in Harlem for most of his life.
Artistically, Hughes anticipated black separatism (even black nationalism) in work that dealt with the desperate predicament of African Americans. Not simply despairing, his poetry insisted on the dignity and beauty of African Americans: "Beautiful, also, is the sun./Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people." Beset by the contradictions and difficulties of being a celebrated black artist and a cultural radical in a segregated society, Hughes kept his homosexuality publicly hidden, although it runs through his poetry in coded and oblique messages of loneliness and fulfillment.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection