While working as a busboy in Washington, D.C., Hughes put three of his poems beside the plate of Vachel Lindsay. The next day, newspapers around the country reported that Lindsay had discovered a Negro busboy poet.
Hughes published his first two books while attending Lincoln University. He received his degree in 1929 from that institution.
Hughes was not immediately accepted as writer. Much of his early work was roundly criticized by many black intellectuals for portraying what they thought to be an unattractive view of black life.
Hughes's father played an instrumental role in his poetry. His parents separated shortly after his birth and his father moved to Mexico. The elder Hughes came to feel a deep dislike and revulsion for other American blacks.
His father sent him to study mining engineering at Columbia University in New York. He lived Harlem and he liked it so much he wrote a poem called "My People."
His family issues extended further than just his father. His mother left him the care of his grandmother at age eight because she couldn't afford rent.
Despite the poverty conditions Hughes endured, he never grew attached to money when he did have it. In fact, Hughes struggled to ask for money when he needed it, even if it were owed to him.
Although Hughes loved Harlem when he began living there in 1924, he had become cynical about it by 1940. He wrote "The ordinary negros hadn't heard of the Negro Renaissance. And if they had, it hadn't raised their wages any."
Langston Hughes was part of the Harlem Renaissance. During his lifetime he was known as "the poet laureate of Harlem." Poet Laureate was a title held by prominent poets in England.
"Hughes portrayed black life in the United States with idiomatic realism. 'Not without Laughter', a novel published in 1930, won him the Harmon god medal for literature."