Langston Hughes (1902–1967), a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the most influential and esteemed writers of the twentieth century, was born in Joplin, Missouri, and spent much of his childhood in Kansas before moving to Harlem. His first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published in 1926; its success helped him to win a scholarship to Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, from which he received his B.A. in 1929 and an honorary Litt.D. in 1943. Among his other awards and honors were a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rosenwald Fellowship, and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hughes published more than thirty-five books, including works of poetry, short stories, novels, an autobiography, musicals, essays, and plays.
Angela Flournoy (introduction) was a finalist for the National Book Award for her debut novel, The Turner House. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, and she has written for The New York Times, The New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Flournoy was raised by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit and now lives in Brooklyn.