JOPLIN, Mo. — Langston Hughes is one of the most famous poets in American history. And, of course, he was born in Joplin. But he wasn’t the only member of the family that was born here,
Langston Hughes was born in a house at 1046 Joplin Avenue in February of 1901. The house no longer exists, but members of the Langston Hughes cultural society want to place a historical marker on the site in the future.
“And it also shows there’s Black History you know, here in Joplin that ranges back that far,” said Melissa Swindell, President of the Langston Hughes Cultural Society.
But about a year before Langston was born, another child, also a boy, and his brother, whose name is unknown, came into the world. Sadly, he never had the chance to impact American culture like Langston did. He died just weeks after being born.
Most of the young children and infants buried in this particular part of the cemetery died from one of three diseases that was rampant at the time.
Will Martin, also a member of the Langston Hughes cultural society, says the likely culprit was smallpox. It wasn’t until last year that his group even learned of the firstborn son to Carrie and James Hughes.
And it took more research before he could say for sure what part of Fairview Cemetery he was laid to rest.
“And finally we came out to the Joplin cemetery office, went through the records and they had it misspelled, instead of Hughes, they left off the ‘E’ on the end and this is where he is buried,” said Martin.
Thanks to the donation from Joplin Granite Company, the Hughes child finally has a headstone to call his own, which Swindell says would make Langston happy.
“That’s what makes it the best, that’s what makes us happy because we got that accomplished for him because he had came back here at one time to try and get a headstone but he couldn’t afford to get it,” said Swindell.