James Mercer Langston Hughes, was an American poet and social activist, born and raised in Joplin, Mississippi. Langston Hughes was a prominent leader in the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic movement in the 1920s that consisted of new African-American cultural expressions. Centered in Harlem, a neighborhood near Manhattan in New York City, the Harlem Renaissance also inspired black writers throughout America and the African and Caribbean colonies.
Langston Hughes used his novels, poems, and plays to show racial tensions and the life of African-Americans during the 1920s. One of Hughes' most famous pieces of work, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, brought to attention to the differences between Caucasian and African American artists, as well as the developing culture as a result of the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1926, Langston Hughes wrote a short essay called The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain for The Nation magazine. In the essay, Hughes recalls a young poet he once met that stated he wanted to be “a poet—not a Negro poet”. Langston Hughes asks black artists to express themselves and be proud of their culture, instead of imitating white artists and absorbing their culture. Hughes draws to attention the beauty of black culture, saying "Not 'white is right' but, as we would now say, 'Black is beautiful'".
The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain was a mission statement for the Harlem Renaissance, which would illustrate the beauty of African American culture and the innovation during this time period of African American artists.
In 1926, Langston Hughes won the Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Prize, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935.He also earned a fellowship from the Rosenwald Fund in 1941, and was awarded the Springarn Medical for distinguished achievements by an African American from the NAACP in 1960. In 2002, Langston Hughes was listed on scholar Molefi Kete Asante's list of 100 Greatest African Americans.