Langston HughesFebruary marks not just the beginning of Black History Month but also the birthday of one of the most famous African American authors, whose work began decades before Black History Month existed as we now know it.

Langston Hughes composed more than 60 books, poems, short stories and more during more than four decades through the late 1960s when he died in 1967.

Mr. Hughes was born in 1902 and is one of the most influential African American authors in American history. His work helped shape the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s as the cultural movement redefined that generation.

It was around that time that Black History Month had its beginnings as Negro History Week, which began in 1926 from inspiration of historian Carter Woodson. President Gerald Ford recognized the first Black History Month in February of 1976, and it’s been commemorated at that time since.

The Pioneer Library System will mark the month with several events in libraries, including:

Hip Hop as Poetry and Cultural Expression, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8 at SOKC – Dr. Catherine A. John, professor at the University of Oklahoma, will present a spoken word performance and engagement in conversation on the history, culture and art of the African American community.

African American Read-In, 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11 at Norman West – The event is a part of a national initiative that celebrates diversity in literature and will feature readings by local community leaders in an effort to shine a spotlight on African American authors.

Kids Celebrate Black History, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 at SOKC – Award-winning author Gwendolyn Hooks will present about her book “If You Were a Kid in the Civil Rights Movement,” and the first 30 children in attendance will receive a free copy of the book.

13th Annual Crowns Tea, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 at Norman Central – The Crowns Tea is based on the photo essay “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats,” which celebrates the tradition of the church hat. Guests are welcome to wear their Sunday best and the library always is filled with dozens of colorful hats. A free ticket is required to attend and can be obtained at the Read-In Feb. 11 and afterward at the Norman Central Information Services Desk.