Sunday, October 24, 2021


Marker Details

Historical Marker:

First Poem by Langston Hughes, The

The marker is located in Lincoln, in the southwest corner of the intersection of 8th and Union Streets.
Dedication Date:
Dedication By:
Friends of Langston Hughes, Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, and The Illinois State Historical Society

Marker Description:
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 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:


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.

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