Langston Hughes' father left his family in Missouri shortly after he was born (he was a lawyer, unable to practice his profession, and went to Mexico), and when he was eight his mother sent him to live with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. After she died he was happily fostered by a childless couple until he rejoined his mother, who had remarried.
He was recognized as a promising poet while still in school and was first published in 1921. He worked as a merchant seaman in 1923-24 and was widely traveled in Africa, Europe and America, and was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, along with Countée Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1929.
His politics were radical-left and he spent some time in the Soviet Union.
His awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship (1935) and a Rosenwald Fellowship (1940).
He wrote 16 volumes of poetry, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of other fiction, 20 plays, three volumes of autobiography, children's poetry, musical and opera libretti, TV and radio scripts and many magazine articles; he edited seven anthologies.
His home in Harlem is a New York City Preservation Commission landmark.