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Langston Lives!

Langston Hughes Festival

Langston Lives!

An Essay Competition for First and Second Year Students at City College
Sponsored by

The Langston Hughes Festival

First Prize: $300
Second Prize: $200
Third Prize: $100

Freshman and sophomore students from all disciplines are invited to submit essays of 500-750 words in length that celebrate and analyze the enduring value of the work of Langston Hughes.

We welcome submissions that use a work or works by Hughes as an opportunity to explore contemporary cultural or social matters. Topics might include:

  • Langston Hughes as “African American Poet Laureate of Democracy”
  • Hughes and Black Lives Matter
  • Hughes and the beauty of Harlem; Harlem today
  • Hughes’s vision of “Let America be America” and its significance today
  • Music and the work of Langston Hughes
  • Hughes’s vision of the writer as artist and activist, and its relevance to today

Please be sure to use MLA style when quoting from Hughes’ work to exemplify and support your analysis.

Submit your essay of 500-750 words as a Word attachment or PDF to by October 30, 2016. Winners will be selected by the 2016 Langston Hughes Festival Committee and announced in advance of the November 16, 2016 Langston Hughes Medal ceremony honoring Ntozake Shange Winners must be present at the ceremony. Please visit: for more information about the festival and its history.

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967) rose to become a major American poet and central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He lived in and traveled to many places including Africa, Mexico, France and Asia. Upon the publication of his first volume of poetry, The Weary Blues (1926), Hughes inaugurated a tradition of poetry inflected with the Afrocentric rhythms and tonalities of blues and jazz, and remained dedicated to the depiction of urban African American folk life. Hughes also wrote plays, a novel, two autobiographies and newspaper columns. Known as a pioneer of blues and jazz poetry, Hughes modeled himself as a poet as activist and is celebrated as such around the world.