An Essay On Langston Hughes's Life

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Both of Hughes ' paternal great-grandmothers were African-American and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners of Kentucky. According to Hughes, one of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller of Henry County and supposedly a relative of Henry Clay, and the other was Silas Cushenberry, a Jewish-American slave trader of Clark County.[2][3] Hughes 's maternal grandmother Mary Patterson was of African-American, French, English and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she first married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race. Leary subsequently joined John Brown 's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 and died from his wounds.[3]

In 1869 the widow Mary Patterson Leary
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Hughes 's father left his family and later divorced Carrie, going to Cuba, and then Mexico, seeking to escape the enduring racism in the United States.[9]

After the separation of his parents, while his mother traveled seeking employment, young Langston Hughes was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas. Through the black American oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled in her grandson a lasting sense of racial pride.[10][11][12] He spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. After the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends, James and Mary Reed, for two years. In his 1940 autobiography The Big Sea he wrote: "I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books — where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in
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