Hughes became fluent in spanish and read books by

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Hughes became fluent in Spanish and read books by Spanish authors. To escape total dependence on his father, he began teaching English to home-schooled children of well-to-do Mexicans. He taught English at a private girl's school and also at a business college. Tension between Langston and his father eased somewhat until the two of them journeyed by horseback to Jim's ranch. As they rode along, Jim revealed his plan to send Langston to a university in Europe where he could study mining engineering and return to Mexico and go into business with his father. Langston had no talent for engineering and no interest in becoming a resident of Mexico. When he confessed his ambition to become a writer, Jim ridiculed the idea. To prove his father wrong, Langston wrote "Mother to Son," and "Aunt Sue's Stories." The speaker in both poems is a strong woman, who comforts and encourages a black child. In September 1920, he sent them to Brownie's Book, a magazine for black children and a sister publication to Crisis. Both journals were edited by Jessie Fauset, who accepted Langston's poems. Later, Langston sent her "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and articles about Mexico that she published in Crisis, the most influential black publication in America.
Langston found New York's night clubs more interesting than his classes at Columbia University (above). (Library of Congress) Armed with this evidence of his talent, Langston again approached his father about paying tuition to Columbia. When he proudly showed him his published writing, Jim asked, "How long did it take you to write that?" and "Did they pay you anything?" Langston confessed that the poems had taken a long time to write and that the publisher had not paid him anything, except copies of the magazine. Jim declared that Langston would fail as a writer and be condemned to live in America "like a nigger with niggers." But he agreed to pay Langston's tuition and expenses to Columbia for one year. Happy at this compromise, Langston rode the train from Mexico City to the seaport of Vera Cruz and boarded a ship bound for New York City. The voyage was miserable. The tiny cabins were hot, and many passengers suffered from seasickness and malaria. When the ship docked at Havana, Cuba, quarantined passengers were forbidden to go ashore. At last the ship docked in New York City. Although Langston had come to New York to attend Columbia, he was eager to explore the streets of Harlem, a world-famous African-American community. He spent hours walking the streets. He knew he could find his place as a writer here, where important editors and publishers had offices, and theaters and cabarets featured black entertainers. Compared to Harlem's busy streets, the marble buildings on the Columbia campus were awesome and forbidding. When the registrar saw that Langston was black, not Mexican, as had been assumed by his father's address, his dormitory room reservation suddenly vanished, even though the university had accepted Jim Hughes' payment. When Langston produced a receipt, the registrar reluctantly assigned him a room. He and a friendly Chinese student were the only non-white students living there.

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