First published in 1921 in The Crisis — official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) — "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", which became Hughes's signature poem, was collected in his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926).  Hughes's first and last published poems appeared in The Crisis ; more of his poems were published in The Crisis than in any other journal.  Hughes' life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, alongside those of his contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston , Wallace Thurman , Claude McKay , Countee Cullen , Richard Bruce Nugent , and Aaron Douglas . Except for McKay, they worked together also to create the short-lived magazine Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists .
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A scholarship then enabled him to complete his education at Lincoln University, from which he graduated in 1929.
But he viewed their struggle not only as a battle against racism, but also as part of a crusade for economic justice and equality:
Walker, Alice. Langston Hughes, American Poet. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.