Poets Who Changed American Society: The Lives and Legacies of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou

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These two poets’ lives prove that art can change people’s hearts and minds and improve the world around them. Their legacies still inspire Americans today, proving that their contributions to American culture were lasting. They will continue to be considered cultural icons long after their deaths. 

Poets Who Changed American Society showcases the impact of Langston Hughes’s poetry and Maya Angelou’s essays and encourages readers to consider how their works have affected society, past and present. The life stories of these most influential poets are beyond inspiring.

Both writers used their voices to fight against injustice, making them iconic figures in American history. Their books, papers and biographies are worth studying for both educational and moral reasons. Read this article to find out why! 

The Life Of Maya Angelou

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Her mother died when she was three, and her grandmother raised her in rural Arkansas. When she was six, her father took her to live with his mother-in-law in Stamps, Arkansas. She left school at 13 to help with the family’s finances by working as a sharecropper. 

At 18, she moved to California hoping to become a writer but struggled with poverty. She met Guy Johnson, married him, and had four children before divorcing in 1957. In 1959, she became involved in civil rights activism. She wrote publications such as the African Review, Freedomways Magazine, and Negro Digest.

The Life Of Langston Hughes

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Langston Hughes was one of the most popular African-American poets, also a novelist, playwright, and social activist. He was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, to parents who had recently moved from Ohio. Growing up in the Jim Crow era proved difficult for him. He dropped out of high school after only a few months to pursue a career as a professional boxer. 

Yet, his literary talents became evident when he began writing poetry while working various odd jobs throughout the 1920s. 

His first published poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, appeared in his magazine, The Brownies’ Book. After becoming active with the Harlem Renaissance movement in New York City during the late 1920s, he became well known for his sharp critiques of racism.

Both Were Pioneers In Their Respective Genres

Hughes was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, while Angelou’s writing often touched on her own experiences. 

Angelou’s memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is an example of a woman’s most critical autobiographical book in 20th-century literature. Her work includes seven poetry volumes, three novels, and five plays. 

Langston Hughes is best known for his poems about life for African-Americans in America. He wrote about everything from discrimination to poverty to Black beauty. He believed that all oppressed peoples should come together to fight their oppressors.

They Were Motivated By Oppression

Langston Hughes’ poems offered a voice to black America’s experience in the early 20th century. His work served as a reminder that African Americans are not victims of oppression but also survivors. These words rang true for many who read them, including Maya Angelou. 

While she was born in the United States, her parents moved back to the Caribbean when she was still an infant. She later moved back to America, but after living through segregation and racism firsthand, she felt compelled to share her experiences with others through poetry. 

Her poems were also influential in highlighting social injustices like racism and sexism.

How Does This Affect Our View On Them?

Their writing shaped how African Americans were seen and viewed in society. They were also instrumental in America’s civil rights movement. As a result, they remain an essential part of American history.

They grew up during a tumultuous time in America, particularly for African Americans. Although the US government abolished slavery in 1865, racial tensions were still high. In some areas, black people were legally treated as second-class citizens; in others, they were essentially not allowed to be citizens. Therefore, elements of racism are present in their work.

Yet, this is not the only critical element of their writing. They used it as their more comprehensive commentary on inequality. These people left extensive research on what life was like for African Americans at that time. They were great activists who stood up against injustice and worked to improve conditions for black people around them.


In their way, both Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou were revolutionaries. They challenged the norms of society, starting with racism. They wanted to see a world where people could be treated equally, a world in which their voices would be heard. Their words have changed America by showing the potential for equality in our society. And while they may not have lived long enough to see this country become what they dreamed it would be, their voices are still critical today.

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