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A Hughes Timeline [imagemap with 8 links]

Personal Events | Professional Events | World Events

Personal events

1902:Hughes is born
James Mercer Langston Hughes is born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1 to Carrie Langston Hughes and James Nathaniel Hughes.

Hughes's parents separate and eventually divorce; his father moves to Mexico. Hughes is raised by his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas.

1915:Lincoln, Illinois
Hughes moves to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother after the death of his grandmother.

"Class poet"
Langston is elected eighth-grade "class poet" in Lincoln, Illinois.

1916:Cleveland, Ohio
Hughes's mother remarries, and the family moves to Cleveland, Ohio. By the time he is 14, Hughes has lived in nine cities.

1920:High school graduation/Mexico
Hughes graduates from Central High School in Cleveland and goes to Mexico, where he teaches English for a year.

1921:Columbia University
Hughes enrolls at Columbia University in New York, where he studies engineering at his father's urging. He drops out after two semesters.

Hughes, employed as a steward on a freighter, travels to Africa and, later, to Europe.

1924:Washington D.C.
In November, Hughes returns to the United States and lives with his mother in Washington, D.C.

1929:Lincoln University
Hughes completes his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Hughes travels to Haiti.

1932:Soviet Union
Hughes travels to the Soviet Union; he stays for almost a year.

1934:The League of Struggle
Hughes becomes the titular head of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, the main African American branch of the Communist party.

1953:Hughes testifies
Hughes testifies before Senator Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Un-American Activities.

Hughes dies on May 22, 1967, in New York City.

Professional events

1919:Poetry prize
Hughes wins an Opportunity magazine poetry prize.

1921:First published poem
Hughes's first published poem, "Fairies," appears in The Brownies' Book, a national magazine for black children published by W.E.B. Du Bois.

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
Hughes's breakthrough poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," is published in The Crisis.

1925:Hughes meets Vachel Lindsay
Hughes, working as a busboy in Washington, D.C., meets guest Vachel Lindsay, whose enthusiastic response to his poems furthers Hughes's reputation.

1926:The Weary Blues
The Weary Blues, Hughes's first book of poetry, is published by Alfred A. Knopf. Hughes is hailed by American critics as a leading black poet.

"The Negro Artist..."
Hughes publishes the essay that will become the manifesto of the Harlem Renaissance, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," in The Nation.

1927:Fine Clothes to the Jew
Hughes's second volume of poetry, Fine Clothes to the Jew, is published, and initially riles critics, black and white alike. It is heavily influenced by blues rhythms.

1930:Not Without Laughter
Hughes's first novel, Not Without Laughter, is published. His only other novel, Tambourines to Glory, will appear in 1958.

1931:Reading tour
Hughes embarks on a reading tour of the South.

1932:The Dream-Keeper
Hughes branches into children's literature with a book of poetry, The Dream-Keeper.

Popo and Fifina
Hughes co-authors the children's novel Popo and Fifina with Arna Bontemps.

Scottsboro Limited
Hughes publishes Scottsboro Limited, a collection of poems and plays inspired by an event in Scottsboro, Alabama, in which nine young black men were wrongly accused, and convicted, of raping two white women. Hughes becomes an outspoken advocate for the nine men.

1934:The Ways of White Folks
The Ways of White Folks, a collection of short stories indicting racism in America, is published. Hughes will publish two more volumes of short stories during his lifetime (Laughing to Keep from Crying in 1952 and Something in Common in 1963), but neither will have as much of an impact.

Hughes's Mulatto, the first full-length play by a black writer, opens on Broadway, October 25, 1935. Mulatto will later be included in his collection Five Plays, released in 1960.

1936:The Sweet and Sour Animal Book
Hughes completes The Sweet and Sour Animal Book. Despite revisions, the manuscript is repeatedly rejected by publishers. Oxford University Press will finally publish it in 1994.

War correspondent
Hughes serves as a newspaper correspondent in the Spanish Civil War.

1940:The Big Sea
Hughes publishes The Big Sea, his autobiography up to age 28. The second volume, I Wonder As I Wander, will follow in 1956.

1942:Newspaper columnist
Hughes becomes a regular columnist for the Chicago Defender, a black weekly.

Shakespeare in Harlem
Hughes's Shakespeare in Harlem, a collection of poetry noted for its blues-infused rhythms and powerful attacks on racism, is published.

1947:Fields of Wonder
Fields of Wonder, a poetry collection, is published.

1949:One Way Ticket
One Way Ticket, a volume of poetry, is published. Hughes's poetry of the late '40s was less well received than his earlier works.

1950:Simple Speaks His Mind
Simple Speaks His Mind, Hughes's first humor collection to feature his popular Jesse B. Semple (Simple) character, is published. All told, Hughes will produce five Simple collections. The Simple stories inspire the Hughes-penned musical Simply Heavenly in 1957.

1951:Montage of a Dream Deferred
Montage of a Dream Deferred is released to wide acclaim. Hughes infuses the poetry in this collection with the discordant rhythm of bebop jazz to reflect the anger and strife in urban, northern African American communities.

1956A Pictorial History of the Negro in America
A Pictorial History of the Negro in America is published. It is considered the most authoritative, and most popular, book on African American history from 1619 to the present.

1958:The Langston Hughes Reader
The Langston Hughes Reader, a collection which includes stories, plays, poems, songs, articles, speeches and more, is published.

1958:Selected Poems
Selected Poems, a collection of poems hand-picked by Hughes from his earlier volumes, is published. The volume also contains some new, previously unpublished poems.

1961:Ask Your Mama
Hughes publishes the book-length poem Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz. Although it is an ambitious piece, it receives a cool reception from black critics. Hughes's work of the '60s was largely dismissed for not keeping up with the Black Power movement of the period.

1967:The Panther and the Lash
The Panther and the Lash, a collection of poems primarily about civil rights, is published posthumously.

1973:Good Morning Revolution
Another posthumous publication, Good Morning Revolution, is released. The book contains Hughes's previously uncollected social protest writing.

World events

1901:Queen Victoria dies
On January 22, Queen Victoria dies, ending the longest reign -- 64 years -- in the history of the British monarchy. Her reign was marked by the expansion of the British Empire, particularly into India and Africa.

President McKinley assassinated
Shortly after his reelection to a second term, U.S. President William McKinley is killed by a self-proclaimed anarchist. McKinley is succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt.

1905:IWW founded
Labor leader William "Big Bill" Haywood founds the International Workers of the World ("Wobblies"). The IWW organized workers in mines, lumberyards, farms, and factories, particularly in the West.

1909:NAACP founded in the United States
W.E.B. Du Bois and a group of multiracial activists found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), originally called the National Negro Committee.

1910:Union of South Africa established
Britain establishes the Union of South Africa after winning the South African War (Boer War, 1899-1902). South Africa gains independence from Britain in 1931 and reinstates suppression of non-whites, which culminates in the policy of apartheid.

1912:Titanic sinks
On April 14, the supposedly unsinkable S.S. Titanic sinks after colliding with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. 1,513 drown.

1913:Harriet Tubman dies
Harriet Tubman dies at 93 on March 10. An escaped slave herself, in the years leading up to the Civil War, Harriet Tubman had helped some 300 slaves escape to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

1914:World War I begins
Unable to maintain a position of neutrality, America enters the "Great War" on the side of the Allies (France, Britain, and Russia). The war ends with Germany's surrender on November 11, 1918. The casualty rate is estimated at 10 million.

1919:18th Amendment
Congress ratifies Prohibition, which places a nationwide ban on the manufacture and transport of intoxicating liquor. Blamed for an increase in crime, dependence on alcohol, and unemployment, Prohibition will be repealed with the 21st Amendment of 1929.

Race riots in Chicago
Race riots erupt in Chicago during a summer plagued by racial violence, first in the Midwest and then across the country. Hundreds of blacks and white are injured or killed, and by the end of the summer, 76 blacks have been lynched.

1920:19th Amendment
The 19th Amendment is passed, giving U.S. women the right to vote.

1929:Stock market crash
On October 24, the U.S. stock market crashes. The country sinks into the grips of the Great Depression.

1932:Roosevelt elected
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president of the U.S. in a landslide victory for the first of four terms.

1940:War in Europe
World War II begins in Europe. It does not end until the Japanese surrender in September of 1945.

1941:Pearl Harbor attacked
On December 7, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The following day, America officially enters the war.

1945:War in Europe ends
On May 8, "V.E. Day," the war in Europe ends.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki
In August, with the war still raging in the Pacific, the U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1947:Jackie Robinson signs with the Dodgers
On April 15, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American since 1884 to sign a contract with a major baseball club. During his first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he is named National League Rookie of the Year.

1954:Brown vs. the Board of Education
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregation by color in public schools is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

1955:Montgomery Bus Boycott
Following the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white rider, blacks in Montgomery, Alabama, begin a boycott of the segregated city bus lines. The boycott lasts for a full year, until the Supreme Court rules that buses must be integrated.

1960:JFK elected president
John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes the first Catholic and the youngest man ever to be elected president.

Lunch counter sit-ins
Black students protest segregation with nonviolent sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina. The sit-ins eventually lead to 60 stores desegregating their counters.

1961:Freedom Riders head south
The Freedom Riders, a multiracial group of civil rights activists, take a bus ride through the South to gauge the results of mandatory desegregation in public places. In Birmingham, Alabama, they are stoned and beaten; in Anniston, their bus is firebombed.

The Berlin Wall
In August, the building of the Berlin Wall begins. Completed in 1963, the Wall is a literal and symbolic divider between communism and democracy. It will stand until 1989, when the border will finally be opened.

1963:Du Bois dies
W.E.B. Du Bois (b. 1868), scholar, civil rights leader, and founder of the NAACP, dies. At the end of his life he had become an outspoken advocate of worldwide black liberation and pan-Africanism, and had moved to Ghana.

March on Washington
On August 28, Martin Luther King Jr. leads the peaceful March on Washington. The march, a quarter of a million strong, culminated in King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and brought the civil rights movement into the mainstream for many whites in America.

JFK assassinated
On November 22, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested for the crime and is subsequently shot and killed by Jack Ruby.

1964:War in Vietnam
On August 7, Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution with a unanimous vote in the House and a 98-2 vote in the Senate. The resolution sanctions war in Vietnam and is widely supported in public opinion.

LBJ elected president
Lyndon Baines Johnson is elected president in November. His presidency will be marked by tremendous advances in civil rights legislation and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

MLK wins Nobel Peace Prize
On December 10, 35-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. becomes the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and only the third black man to do so.

1965:Malcolm X assassinated
Malcolm X (b. 1925) is shot and killed following a speech in Harlem on February 21. His killers are thought to be rival Black Muslims.

Watts riots
On August 11, tensions explode in the Watts district of Los Angeles. By the end of the riots, 34 are dead, and there is $200 million worth of property damage. The unrest spreads to other major urban areas across the country.

1966:International Days of Protest
From March 25 to 27, seven U.S. and foreign cities host the International Days of Protest against U.S. policies in Vietnam.

1968:Martin Luther King assassinated
On April 4, the day after delivering his "I See the Promised Land" speech, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray confesses to the murder and remains in prison until his death in 1999.

Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
On June 5, then-Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is gunned down in Los Angeles by Jordanian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan at a victory rally following the California primary.

Nixon wins
Richard M. Nixon is elected president. Four years later he will be re-elected in a near-landslide victory, despite arrests that signal the beginning of the Watergate scandal.

1970:Kent State killings
On May 4, four unarmed students are killed by National Guardsmen called in to quash a campus rally protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.

1972:U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam
The last American troops are withdrawn from Vietnam although advisors and administrators will remain until 1975.

1974:Nixon resigns
After several former White House aides are convicted and sentenced in Watergate cover-up and related matters, Nixon resigns on August 4 to avoid almost certain impeachment.

1975:Fall of Saigon
As Communist forces overrun Saigon a panicked evacuation of troops, civilians and refugees begins, ending the United States's twenty-year military involvement in Vietnam.

1976:Rioting and violence in South Africa
Blacks battle armed police in protests against apartheid and government policies from Soweto to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Jimmy Carter elected
Jimmy Carter narrowly defeats incumbent Gerald R. Ford to become the 39th president of the United States, and the first from the Deep South to be elected since the Civil War.

1979:Shah of Iran forced into exile
The Ayatollah Khomeini takes over the rule of the Islamic fundamentalist government.

1980:Reagan elected
In November, Ronald Reagan is elected president of the United States, promising relief from the low morale and high inflation of the Carter years.

Essays + Interviews | Who's Who | The Harlem Renaissance
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