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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Lincoln in Logan County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The First Poem by Langston Hughes

1916

 
 
The First Poem by Langston Hughes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, July 19, 2017
1. The First Poem by Langston Hughes Marker
Inscription.  This internationally known African-American author (1902-1967) acknowledges in his autobiography The Big Sea that he wrote his first poem while attending Central School here in Lincoln. Ethel Welch, his eighth grade teacher, asked him to write the graduation poem. With no prior experience, Hughes prepared an eight-verse piece to honor each of the school's eight instructors. And the poem was printed in the commencement program. He graduated in 1916 with a class of eighty students. Hughes, a native of Joplin, Missouri, who had grown up in Lawrence, Kansas, had come to Lincoln in 1915 to live with his mother and step-father. He attended high school in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hughes' prominence in American literature comes mainly from his poems and novels written during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. His subsequent poetry, short stories, and other works, which appeared in the Chicago Defender and the New York Post, assured his fame. His literary works celebrate the African-American experience in the United States and his many admirers have bestowed on him the title of Poet Laureate of Black America. One of his most famous poems follows:

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

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 
Erected 1998 by The Friends of Langston Hughes, The Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, and The Illinois State Historical Society.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans
The First Poem by Langston Hughes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, July 19, 2017
2. The First Poem by Langston Hughes Marker
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Arts, Letters, Music. In addition, it is included in the Illinois State Historical Society series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1916.
 
Location. 40° 9.013′ N, 89° 22.082′ W. Marker is in Lincoln, Illinois, in Logan County. Marker is at the intersection of 8th Street and North Union Street, on the right when traveling east on 8th Street. Marker is on the southwest corner. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Lincoln IL 62656, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Niebuhr Family of Theologians (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The William Maxwell Boyhood Home (approx. 0.2 miles away); Centennial Park (approx. 0.3 miles away); Lincoln's Lincoln (approx. 0.3 miles away); Stephen A. Douglas Speech (approx. 0.3 miles away); Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln, Illinois (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Lincoln House (approx. 0.3 miles away); Lincoln Rustic Scene of Conspiracy (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lincoln.
 
Also see . . .
1. Wikipedia Entry for Langston Hughes. “His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working-class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Permeating his work is pride in the African-American identity and its diverse culture.” (Submitted on January 26, 2019.) 

2. Wikipedia entry for Jazz Poetry. “Jazz poetry has long been something of an ‘outsider’ art form that exists somewhere outside the mainstream, having been conceived in the 1920s by African Americans, maintained in the 1950s by counterculture poets like those of the Beat generation, and adapted in modern times into hip-hop music and live poetry events known as poetry slams.” (Submitted on January 26, 2019.) 
 
The First Poem by Langston Hughes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, July 19, 2017
3. The First Poem by Langston Hughes Marker
“Portrait of American writer and activist Langston Hughes” image. Click for full size.
By Gordon Parks, 1943
4. “Portrait of American writer and activist Langston Hughes”
Photograph in the collection U.S. Office of War Information, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 26, 2019. It was originally submitted on July 23, 2017, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. This page has been viewed 584 times since then and 112 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 23, 2017, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona.   4. submitted on January 26, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Jul. 25, 2021