What was Harlem like when Langston Hughes lived there?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the time of his writing, Hughes and other members of the Harlem Renaissance had seen Harlem as the center of the Black experience.  Thinkers like Hughes found Harlem to be a cultural center from which composition on issues of race/ ethnicity, identity, and sociological reality would be possible.  Hughes' attendance at Columbia allowed him to use Harlem as the canvas upon which some of his finest work would be rendered: 

The move was a watershed event in Hughes’s life, not because of college, which he found uncongenial and quit after his first year, but because it brought him to Harlem, Manhattan’s teeming African American district and the locus for the Harlem Renaissance, a burgeoning cultural revival in which Hughes soon immersed himself. Hughes also explored Harlem’s vibrant nightlife.

It is in this light that Hughes' vision of Harlem helped him to develop his own voice as both poet and person of color in America.

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