Until the beginning of the twentieth century, poetry was dominated by white poets and the experiences expressed through Caucasian poets were all that anyone had really heard. Around this time, when the Harlem Renaissance began to take place, many strong black rhythms and voices were breaking out and spreading at an alarming pace throughout the country. One of the voices that rose higher and more strongly than the others was that of Langston Hughes. James Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri to a family of abolitionists. His father, James Nathaniel Hughes, was a storekeeper and his mother was a school teacher who also enjoyed writing poetry. The brother of Langston's grandfather, John Mercer Langston, was the first Black American to be elected to public office in 1855. His childhood was marked by poverty and the separation of his parents ripped him apart, living with his mother, father and grandmother. He lived in Mexico, Topeka, Kansas, Colorado, Indiana, and Buffalo. At age thirteen he moved back with his mother, who now was remarried. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for his stepfathers work. Langston was interested in poetry, but it was when he found poems by Carl Sandbury, when he became seriously influenced by the .
un-rhyming, free verse style. After graduating from a highschool in Cleveland, Langston spent a year with his father who had light skin, there his father found a release from the racism of the North as a cattle rancher.
"On the train, when he returned to the north, Hughes wrote one of his most famous poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". It appeared in the African-American journal crisis in 1921."(Langston Hughes) .
Soon later, his father paid his tuition to go to Columbia University to study engineering because he did not believe that poetry would ever get his son anywhere. Hughes decided that he wanted to become a lawyer along with his love for poetry, but that was shut down when he was denied the ability to take the bar exam.