Today marks the start of Black History Month. But it’s also the birthday of poet Langston Hughes! Hughes spent a formative period in the District (there’s a restaurant named in his honor), and according to D.C. Writers’s Homes, lived at 1749 S St. NW and the 12th Street Y in the 1925 and worked at the Wardman Park Hotel. Hughes wrote his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, while living in D.C.
My personal favorite Hughes poem is “Theme For English B,” especially the following:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—-we two—-you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me—-who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
Photo via the Library of Congress