Langston Hughes

Topics: African American, Walt Whitman, Poetry Pages: 4 (1185 words) Published: December 18, 2005
Inspiration From Life

Langston Hughes had many influences in his life that is reflected in his work. Every author has a "muse" for his\her writings because he\she is inspired differently by a number of things. Influence and inspiration are relatively the same, they both affect a person. How that person is affected is the way he\she perceives and feels about it. Hughes was influenced by several things. One of which was a famous poet named Walt Whitman. Other things that influenced Hughes were racism, music, and ironically his own depression.

Langston Hughes was particularly inspired by Walt Whitman so much so that he took Whitman's book, Leaves of Grass, with him when he traveled to Africa in the early 1920s , and edited a collection of Whitman's work in 1946. Hughes was first introduced to Walt Whitman's work in his 8th grade English class. In Hughes' junior year, he published his first poem in free verse, one that showed the clear influence of Walt Whitman for the first time (Bloom, 90). Hughes praised how Whitman's "...all embracing words lock arms with workers and farmers, Negroes and whites, Asiatics and Europeans, serfs and free men, beaming democracy to all."(Hughes, 128) Like Whitman, Hughes wanted to be a writer without becoming- in Whitman's term- a "literatus". Like Whitman, Hughes wanted to share the common man's experiences, for he wanted to be a spokesman for the common man (Berry, 32). Hughes wrote a letter once to his close friend Walter White, an NAACP official, more well-known as the executive secretary of the NAACP. In the letter Hughes writes, "I've been invited to read my poems at Walt Whitman's House in Camden on March 1st. The invitation came from the Walt Whitman Foundation, and because I admire his work so much it seems a great honor for me to read my humble poems in the house where he lived and worked….." (Berry, 86) Langston Hughes showed that Walt Whitman influenced him in his work by the way Hughes praised Whitman.


Cited: Berry, Faith. Before and Beyond Harlem, Langston Hughes a Biography. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992.
Bloom, Harold. Bloom 's BioCritiques, Langston Hughes. Pennsylvania: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.
Hughes, Langston . The Big Sea. Canada: HarperCollinsCanadaLtd, 1940.
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