“He spoke to, about, and for black people in America.” And he did it at a time when so few people were. This short biography of Langston Hughes, the poet, author, and playwright will give you a crash-course in a name you’ve probably heard, but may not understand the importance of. “Langston Hughes was the leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance, whose poetry showcased the dignity and beauty in ordinary black life,” the video explains. “The hours he spent in Harlem clubs affected his work, making him one of the innovators of Jazz Poetry.” His voice was new, electric, and led a generation of artists.

But how did he become such a part of a literary history? From a lonely childhood to the breakout early work “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, to becoming a literary legend, this video follows his incredible arc. You can watch the whole thing here:

Making a living as a writer is still incredibly difficult, but to do it as a young, black man in Harlem at that time was nearly unheard of. But that is a testament to how prolific, accessible, and profoundly moving he was. His crossover with jazz and blues, his celebration of the everyday black experience, and, of course, his astounding grasp of language put this writer in a league of his own.