Poetry Landmark: Langston Hughes's hometown of Lawrence, KS
Born in Missouri in 1902, Langston Hughes moved to Lawrence, Kansas, as a baby to live with his grandmother after his parents divorced. He stayed in Lawrence until he was thirteen and then went to live with his mother and her new husband in Illinois. The short time that Hughes spent in Lawrence has profoundly touched the town and continues to be celebrated in many ways.
In 1975, a statue of Hughes was unveiled at the Watkins Community Museum of History. The statue, sculpted by James Patti, depicts Hughes as a young boy delivering newspapers and carrying a book by W. E. B. DuBois. In 1977, the University of Kansas in Lawrence established a rotating professorship in Hughes's name, and in 1980, a plaque with the first line of his poem "Youth" was placed at the entrance to the City Hall. The short poem begins: "We have tomorrow / Bright before us / Like a flame." In 1991, local schoolchildren petitioned the Lawrence City Commission to hold "Langston Hughes Day" on the anniversary of his birthday, February 1. Hughes is still celebrated annually with performances, readings, and lectures.
There are many other notable landmarks for Hughes in Lawrence, including the church he attended, the library he frequented, and the graves of his grandparents. Hughes lived in his grandmother’s house on 732 Alabama Street, which has since been converted into a duplex apartment; a marker denotes the spot as his childhood home. A neighboring house, at 736 Alabama Street, resembles the home as it might have looked when he was a child. At 801 West 6th Street is the Pinckney School, where Hughes was enrolled. In 1991, the Pinckney School renamed its library the Langston Hughes Library for Children.
Photo courtesy of the Watkins Community Museum of History.