Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. He grew up in a small Mid-western town in Kansas during the quiet years before World War 1. Where he learned the blues and spirituals, he would later use this to put the musical elements into his poetry and fiction. Langston was an only child and when he went to school he was the only black student. As a Black in Kansas, there were things he could not do like he couldn't buy an ice cream soda or a ticket to the movies. .
His parents divorced when he was a small child, and his father moved to Mexico. His grandmother raised him until he was thirteen, when he then moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband. The search for employment made his mother and stepfather, Homer Clark, to move many times. Hughes moved between the households of his grandmother, his mother and other close family members. He wrote an essay, which describes that slept in "Ten Thousand Beds."" Hughes finally settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Lincoln, Illinois Hughes started writing poetry.
After graduation he spent a year in Mexico and a year in Columbia University. During these years, he had odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and traveled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes first book of poetry, the Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not without Laughter, in which he won the Harmon gold medal for literature.
Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his influences, which helped him make him known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his work with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in Montage of a Dream Deferred.