Langston Hughes was one of the great writers of his time. He was named the "most renowned African American poet of the 20th century" (McLaren). Through his writing he made many contributions to following generations by writing about African American issues in creative ways including the use of blues and jazz. Langston Hughes captured the scene of Harlem life in the early 20th century significantly influencing American Literature. He once explained that his writing was an attempt to "explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America" (Daniel 760). To fulfill this task, he wrote 15 volumes of poetry, six novels, three books, 11 plays, and a variety of non-fiction work (Daniel 760). He also edited over 50 books in his time (McKay).
Later in his life, Hughes lived in Washington, D.C. where he observed prejudice towards and within the city's black society. The upper-class blacks shunned the lower class viewing them as being "embarrassingly vulgar" (Dickinson 323). Overcoming African-American prejudice was a major focus in most of Hughes' writing. For example, he wrote about the joys, sorrows and hopes of the black man in America (Dickinson 321). Not all of his writings were so encouraging however. Other themes Hughes wrote about include lynchings, rapes, discrimination, and Jim Crow Laws. He commented that when he felt bad, he wrote a great deal of poetry; when he was happy, he didn't write any (Dickinson 321).
At first, Hughes primarily focused on writing for a black urban audience; throughout time, he changed his focus to middle-class blacks, and then to the men and women of Harlem as "black masses". Hughes ended up directing his writing to both whites and blacks of all classes. His basic philosophy, taken from one of his famous poems "I, too," was as follows:
Tomorrow, I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"