Poet. Novelist. Playwright. Activist. There wasn’t much that Langston Hughes couldn't do. Born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902, Hughes—an innovator of the jazz poetry art form—eventually made his way to New York City, where he became one of the most recognized leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. But even amongst his peers, Hughes’s work stood out as unique.

In 1973’s Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays, critic Donald B. Gibson wrote that Hughes “differed from most of his predecessors among black poets … in that he addressed his poetry to the people, specifically to black people. During the twenties when most American poets were turning inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers, Hughes was turning outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read.”

Here are 20 inspiring quotes from Langston Hughes.

1. On humor

“Humor is laughing at what you haven't got when you ought to have it ... what you wish in your secret heart were not funny, but it is, and you must laugh. Humor is your own unconscious therapy. Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you.”

2. On the importance of dreams

“A dream deferred is a dream denied.”

3. On censorship

“We Negro writers, just by being black, have been on the blacklist all our lives. Censorship for us begins at the color line.”

4. and 5. On freedom

“In all my life, I have never been free. I have never been able to do anything with freedom, except in the field of my writing.”

“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”

6. On the purpose of art

“Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people—the beauty within themselves.”

7. On not taking "but" for an answer

“I will not take 'but' for an answer. Negroes have been looking at democracy's 'but' too long.”

8. and 9. On the writing process

“I must never write when I do not want to write.”

“Writing is like traveling. It's wonderful to go somewhere, but you get tired of staying.”

10. On determination

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

11. On the place of politics in poetry

“Politics can be the graveyard of the poet. And only poetry can be his resurrection.”

12. and 13. On democracy

“Democracy will not come Today, this year Nor ever Through compromise and fear.”

“I swear to the Lord, I still can't see, why Democracy means, everybody but me.”

14. On life and death

“Life is for the living. Death is for the dead. Let life be like music. And death a note unsaid.”

15. on the duty of black artists

“To my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering 'I want to be white,' hidden in the aspirations of his people, to 'Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro—and beautiful!'”

16. On living in the present

“I tire so of hearing people say, Let things take their course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need my freedom when I'm dead. I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.”

17. on seeking strength from within

“When a man starts out to build a world, He starts first with himself.”

18. On revolution

“Good morning, Revolution: You're the very best friend I ever had. We gonna pal around together from now on.”

19. On the nature of jazz

“Jazz, to me, is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.”

20. On beer

“Whiskey just naturally likes me but beer likes me better.”