No Crystal Stair: Langston Hughes on black life in America.

Written by Cole Schafer


Langston Hughes was a poet, a novelist and an activist known for his deep, colorful portrayals of black life in America during the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties.

He, in many ways, spearheaded the Harlem Renaissance which gave birth to world-renowned artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker.

Not only was Hughes able to reach the same heights as literary greats like Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson, but he was able to do so as a black man in America with one arm tied behind his back.

A struggle he shares with the world in his breathtaking poem titled, Mother to Son.

It goes something like this…

* Langston Hughes is typing now *

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Ain’t been no crystal stair.

If you’re a writer or simply a marketer that understands the power of the written word, Hughes is worth studying.

If you’re a human longing for a fairer, more equal world, I’d argue the above poem is as relevant today as it was the moment Hughes first typed it into existence.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Langston Hughes).

P.S. You might also like this article and maybe this article on Muhammad Ali.