James Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902. Overall he had a very simple life and began to write his poetry in Lincoln Illinois. He did attend Columbia University in Mexico and than took on a few odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and than traveled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. Reading his biography i noticed that Hughes claimed Paul Laurence, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman as his primary influences. He is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. I felt that is important to realize that all of the poets named above influenced his writing. Each one of this individuals had an important impact on the way that Hughes wrote and i felt that it was important for one to understand how each one of the poets influenced Hughes in their own way.
Paul Laurence was one of the first African Americans to gain national recognition. During his day he freed slaves from Kentucky. Both of his parents separated shortly after his birth, however Laurence would talk about the stories of plantation life throughout all of his works. Even though Laurence was a fine student he was unable to attend college because of his finical situation so he took a job as a elevator operator. He went on to make a self published collection called Oak and Ivy and sold copies in his elevator for a dollar for the people that rode his elevator. With that being said he had an overall successful carrer but i feel influenced Hughes because of his writing about life on the plantation. In Hughes poem The Negro Speaks of River he talks about many rivers and how life was during the time period in which he lived in. This poem was talking about how dangerous the rivers were during this period because slavery was very popular. One could be sold down the Mississippi River and be working for the rest of their lives. I feel like Hughes had a direct affect on Hughes poetry because of him describing the slavery life, like Laurence talked about in his poems of the days on the planation.
Carl Sandburg was a poet that had a different life. His life was a rough one and he had emigrated from Sweden. His family was very poor and Carl left school at the age of 13 to take on odd jobs from laying bricks to dishwashing to try to support his family. He traveled to Kansas as a hobo, than served in the Spanish American War. He attended Lombard for four years and was able to become known as a poet. Over time his work became known by others and he was starting to write in the free verse like Whitman had cultivated in college. I feel like Carl Sandburg contributed to the way that he wrote because of his free verse poetry. There was no one structure to the way that everything was said. It was all freely put into a poem and had a lot of meaning that was built deep inside of the words.
Last but not least Walt Whitman was the last influence that Hughes had. He had a family with 9 sisters and brothers. At the age of 12 he began to learn the printers trade and fell in love with the written word. He was a man that taught himself most of the things that he learned and he read a lot becoming familiar with the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare along with the Bible. He founded a newspapers called the Long Islander and edited a large group of Brooklyn and New York papers. There is not a doubt in my mind that this man could not have had any affect of Hughes. He worked hard all of his life and did everything himself. He did not go to others for help and basically self taught himself everything he was able to accomplish. He was very successful writing in many places and becoming well known. I feel that because of his reliance on nobody it helped Hughes to write poetry that way and to not have to rely on anyone to get the things he wanted done.