Claude McKay, author of Home to Harlem (1928), Langston Hughes, renowned as "Harlem's poet laureate," and Zora Neale Hurston, who praised African American culture in the rural South, were among the noteworthy writers. Many more artists and authors have been discovered by scholars since their works were first published.
Hughes was an internationally known poet who worked during one of America's most vibrant periods of literary creativity. His poems focused on such topics as love, life in Harlem, and black nationalism. He also wrote a number of plays that were performed by local theaters across the country.
Langston Hughes was born in Alabama in 1902. He moved with his family to New York City when he was eight years old. There, he learned to love music, art, and literature, which became important elements in his work.
After high school graduation, Hughes worked as a clerk at several companies before joining the military in 1924. While serving in the Army Air Force, he wrote many poems, stories, and essays about his experiences overseas. Upon his release from duty in 1927, he returned to New York City where he began writing books that would make him famous worldwide. One of these books is entitled We Wear the Mask: An Anthology of Social Criticism from Elijah Muhammad to the Present.
Langston Hughes was an African American writer whose poetry, articles, novels, and plays catapulted him to prominence during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. In addition to being one of the founders and leading poets of the movement, he also edited several journals, wrote essays, and made speeches on behalf of his peers.
Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, on August 4, 1902. He grew up in New York City and attended Columbia University, from where he graduated in 1925. That same year, he traveled to Paris, where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière for three months. Back home in Harlem, he began writing poems that were published in magazines such as The Crisis and The Messenger.
In 1927, Hughes published his first book of poems, Songs of the Free, which included works such as "The Negro's Prayer" and "We Wear the Mask". This was followed by two more books of poems within five years. In 1932, he published a novel titled Juno: A Novel with a Message, which was met with critical acclaim. It was later adapted into a play that ran for nearly 500 performances on Broadway.
Prior to Roots, notable black authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin had mostly focused on present or recent-past American themes. Hurston was born in 1891 and died in 1960; Wright was born in 1902 and died in 1978; Ellison was born in 1914 and died in 1994; and Baldwin was born in 1924 and died in 1987.
All four writers were influenced by African-American culture and history and have been credited with bringing attention to these issues through their work. Hurston's first published story was "Tell Me about Love" in 1925, which was followed by three more novels that same year. In 1927, she also published a collection of short stories titled Dust Tracks on a Road. Wright wrote several novels including Native Son (1940) and The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1965). Ellison edited the journal Race Relations for nearly 30 years and authored numerous essays and reviews during this time. His most well-known work is an essay collection called The Invisible Man: Essays on Blackness (1975). Baldwin used his fame as an author to speak out against racism and social injustice.
He wrote six books, one novel, and several articles and speeches. His best known work is probably the book That Pushy Lady! A Biography of Louisa May Alcott (1973).