Langston Hughes and the children's garden in Harlem

Langston Hughes with neighborhood children in a Harlem garden. Photo by Don Hunstein, 1955

Langston Hughes is a famous African American writer, best known for his poetry, who was born on February 1, 1902 and died in 1976.
The story that goes with the picture of the garden comes from a book about Mr. Hughes’ life. In 1954 he lived in a house in Harlem, New York City.
But most of the patch of earth beside the front steps, about six feet square, was barren from years of trampling by neighbourhood children, who had little time for flowers. Langston decided to rescue it, and teach the children a tender lesson at the same time. He named the plot their garden.
Under his supervision…each child chose a plant, set it, and assumed partial responsibility for weeding and watering the garden. On a picket beside each plant was posted a child’s name. Proud of the garden, which flourished, and prouder still of his children, Langston was photographed at least once beaming in their midst.
We have Michael Levenston of the very informative City Farmer blog to thank for sharing this gem.
Langston Hughes wrote a lot for children too, and the very best place we’ve found for learning about these is the same blog which we shared in the post Chinua Achebe for Young Readers.
Ariel S. Winter, the owner of the blog, has done such a good job with Langston Hughes’ children’s books that we can only say you should go and look at it.
Mr. Winter’s work is especially helpful because many of these books are hard to find, and he is able to describe them in great detail, or even provide page-by-page copies of a few books.
Here are some short cuts:
Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti
The First Book of Rhythms
The First Book of Jazz
The First Book of the West Indies
Famous American Negroes
Some of the books Langston Hughes wrote for children were published after he died. The Sweet and Sour Animal Book is an alphabet book about animals, illustrated by students from the Harlem School of the Arts.
The Sweet and Sour Animal Book, by Langston Hughes
Two Poetry books that are currently available are My People, a poem with photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr, and Poetry for Young People, illustrated by Benny Andrews.
My People by Langston Hughes
Poetry For Young People by Langston Hughes