Langston was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1,1902, but grew up mostly in Lawrence Kansas. His mother and father was James Hughes and Carrie Langston, who was a teacher for a while. His father was not happy with the way African Americans were being treated so he moved to Mexico. During his childhood, he was brought up by his grandmother until he was 12, in Lawrence, Kansas. When his grandma died he went to live with his Aunt Reed. He would find and sell maple seeds till he stuck his first regular job in seventh grade. Langston would clean up the lobby and bathrooms in an old hotel. When the Great War in Europe had begun, Langston's mother sent for him to come live with her. He was going on 14. At his new school in Lincoln, Illinois Langston was elected class poet. He was elected in his class because there was only one other African American and she was was a girl. The class like most of America thought that most African Americans can sing and dance so they thought that Langston would have rhythm. His first poem was about his eight teachers and his class. This was the longest poem he has ever written. The only poems he liked as a child were Paul Lawrence Dunbar's and Hiawatha. But Langston loved all stories. .
After graduating from middle school, Langston and his mother moved to Cleveland to be with his step-father.Rents for African Americans were very high, so during his high school years, Langston lived in basements and attics. At his high school, he wrote poems for their newspaper the Belfry Owl. Langston tried to write his poems like Carl Sandburg. He wrote poems about love, about the steel mills where his stepfather worked, the poverty he lived in, and the girls from the south. In high school, Langston was on the track team, he was a lieutenant in the military training corps. And was sporadically on the monthly honor roll for a scholarship. The spring before his senior year, Langston received a letter from his father, whom he had not seen 11 years.