Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

“Dreams” (1929)

Langston Hughes (1902–67)
Engineering 1921–22

Proclaimed in his time as the Poet Laureate of Harlem, Hughes chronicled black life in a variety of forms, from the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance through the Depression and into the modern civil-rights era. His work is inflected with the rhythms of the jazz that he absorbed and adored in the clubs of New York and Washington during the 1920s.

In a prodigious career, he wrote poems, novels, short stories, two autobiographies—The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956)—plays, musicals, operas, translations, radio and television scripts, and magazine articles. In addition, he edited seven anthologies.

Hughes attended Columbia's School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry in 1921 at the behest of his father, who urged him to seek a practical career. Despite a B+ average, Hughes dropped out after one year, exchanging his slide rule for a pen. Eight years later he graduated from Lincoln University, by then a much-published author and poet.

Read more about Hughes in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Read a poem by Hughes that draws on his experience at Columbia.

Forgotten for decades, Zora Neale Hurston, one of the best known writers of the Harlem Renaissance, is again widely admired.

Harlem History

Archival treasures and interviews tell the story of one of the world's most famous and influential neighborhoods.

Write Columbia's History

Columbia's history, as seen by those who have studied, taught, and worked here.

Columbians Ahead of Their Time

Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.

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