Langston Hughes (1902-1967) James Langston Hughes (1902-1967) is the poet laureate of African-American experience — a popular writer of the Harlem Renaissance who gave hopeful expression to the aspirations of the oppressed, even as he decried racism and injustice. Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. Hughes was unashamedly black at a time when blackness was demode, and he didn’t go much beyond the themes of black is beautiful as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths. In visual media, his sexuality was the subject of two plays by African American playwrights. In the 1989 film, Looking for Langston by British filmmaker Isaac Julien, Hughes is reclaimed as a black gay icon — a reclamation Julien saw as necessary because Hughes' sexuality has historically been ignored or downplayed. In addition to poetry, Hughes published fiction, drama, autobiography, and translations, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, Simple Stakes a Claim, Simple Takes a Wife, and Simple's Uncle Sam. He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography (The Big Sea) and co-wrote the play Mule Bone with Zora Neale Hurston. His work continues to serve as a model of wide empathy and social commitment.