James Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in the year 1902. Born into an abolitionist family, he was the great nephew of John Mercer Langston, the first Black American to be elected to public office in 1855. Hughes started writing poetry in the eighth grade at Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Elected to be the class poet, his father did not support his writing as a career, and encouraged him to get a more practical profession. Attending his first college at Columbia University to study engineering, he dropped out with a B+ average. Continuing to write poetry, his first published poem was also one of his most famous, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." Later on, his poems, short plays, essays, and short stories appeared in publications such as Crisis Magazine and Opportunity Magazine and other publications.
In 1923, Hughes traveled on a ship to parts of Africa such as Nigeria, Angola, Senegal, and Belgium Congo. Later on he visited Italy, France, Russia, and Spain. Returning a year later in Harlem. In 1925 he moved to Washington, D.C., accepting a job with Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson was the editor of the Journal of Negro Life and founder of Black History Week. Hughes wrote sixteen books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of "editorial" and "documentary" fiction, twenty plays, children's poetry, musicals and operas, three autobiographies, a dozen of television and radio scripts, and magazine articles. Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967. The New York City Preservation Commission gave his original residence in Harlem, New York landmark status.
Hughes reveals himself through his writings, giving clues here and there of what he is pondering in his mind. For example, in the poem Nightmare Boogie Hughes writes about having a dream, not a pleasant dream but a nightmare. Since the time when he wrote the poem blacks were still segregated, it is about segregation.