Langston Hughes

Choose a theme that runs through several of LH’s poems and discuss, being as specific as you can–quote from the poems.

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  1. dlpirraglia Said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 12:23 am

    Sadness is a recurring theme in many of Langston Hughes’ poems. However, it is the poems about depression and sadness that struck me as the most powerful poems in our reading selection, namely “Ballad of a Fortune Teller”, “Too Blue” and “Blues at Dawn”. I was overwhelmed by the emotion in these pieces and could not help but reread them over and over again. I found the rhyme scheme, repetitions and word choices to be extremely appropriate in conveying the overall tone of each poem and truly made each poem a joy to read. For instance, the ABCB DEFE rhyme scheme of “Ballad of a Fortune Teller” forces the reader to recite the lines slower and in a less sing-song manner, adding to its aloof tone. It was the rhyme scheme in “Too Blue” that also caught my attention. The irregularity in the rhymes almost made it feel as if it were a dialogue, someone plainly explaining to you just how depressed he is. Moreover, the use of sarcastic humor and nonchalant language in such a dark poem, such as “I wonder if/ One bullet would do?/As hars as my head is,/ I would probably take two”, also reminded of a conversation with a mentally unstable individual- someone who would find humor in suicide. Lastly, it was the repetition in “Blues at Dawn” that grabbed my attention. Hughes repeats the lines “I don’t are start thinking in the morning” and “I don’t remember in the morning”, promoting the idea that what happened in the speakers past is too painful to “think” or “remember” in the early hours of the day.

  2. avillanueva100 Said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    As we read many of Langston Hughes’ poems, the reader can see multiple ideas underlying each poem. While comparing many of these ideas, many common themes appear throughout the poems. One of these is the usage and importance of setting; the location where the poem is located is one of the most important pieces of information found in the poems. In poems such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “Theme for English B,” and “Negro” the reader can see this idea of location enforced.
    In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes begins this idea of setting and location. He generalizes the black population to sound as one individual, and creates this singular speaker that is supposed to represent all blacks throughout history in many of the world’s most famous rivers. The speaker has “bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young” and built a “hut near the Congo” (lines 5-6). The speaker has also been to the Nile, and “raised the pyramids above it,” and to the Mississippi (line 7). But even with all these references of the different locations, the speaker shows that this is not the most important aspect of the poem, but that this culture has been throughout the “soul has grown deep like the rivers” due to everything they have been through (line 13). With this poem, Hughes uses location to show the depth of importance that the black community has had in history.
    Hughes also uses location in “Theme for English B,” but for another purpose. This poem is a personal narrative about a student writing to his professor. The speaker begins by giving a brief description of his life, stating that he was born in Winston-Salem, and went to school in Durham and now Harlem. He then continues to narrate his steps from school to his home- he go through Eighth Ave, Seventh Ave, and the Y. The speaker then uses this information to question his identity and the difference between him and his professor. Just like the professor, he has been to multiple places, and he realizes that being black doesn’t make him “not like/ the same things other folks like who are other races” (line 25-26). Being black does not define every aspect of himself. According to the speaker, they are all part of each other and “that’s American” (line 33). It is important for the speaker that the reader understands that both he and the professor understand that they are very similar to each other because of experiences they have each had. Overall, Hughes uses location in this poem to relate the speaker more to the reader- if the reader knows more specific details about the speaker they are better able to relate with the speaker.
    Finally, Hughes also uses the idea of location in “Negro.” This poem also shows the speaker in a sort of passage through time. The speaker is “a Negro,” which has made him a slave for both Caesar and Washington (line 1). Immediately the reader can connect both of these characters with specific places, Rome and America. Because of the difference in time and location, it is simple to see the importance that being a slave has had on this community. Along with being a slave, the speaker has also been a worker, creating the pyramids and making “mortar for the Woolworth building” (line 9). Again, although not specifically stated, the reader understands the speaker is referencing Egypt and New York City. He or she has also been a singer “from Africa to Georgia” as well as a victim, having the “Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo/ [and being lynched] still in the Mississippi” (lines 11, 15-16). Although the speaker in jumping around in time, it is obvious that all of these location hold significant importance and memories for the speaker. And because the speaker once again represents the black community, it shows how they have been mistreated everywhere. This makes the reader feel pity for the community, because as we read, we are picturing all the suffering they have gone through.
    Langston Hughes is able to use this idea of involving different places in his poetry to create a more personal reaction from the reader. If the reader knows where it is that the speaker is talking about, it is easier for them to relate to what is going on. And although each poem uses the setting differently, they all grab the reader’s attention and help Hughes explain his ideas better. Overall this technique is very useful, because setting gives the speaker a real identity as well as a reason to mention all these grievances. If it weren’t for the location, the reader would be left wondering where many of these issues occurred, and thus would be doubtful about the truthfulness of it.

  3. hamlaw Said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    Throughout Langston Hughes’ poetry, one prevalent theme is that of a type of transcending of human experience. In a way, it touches upon the idea of the collective unconscious in Carl Jung’s analytical psychology. We see the idea of values and experiences, aspects of life that cross physical or perceived boundaries in every day life. It is put forth rather subtly in “Too Blue,” where for two lines, the poet addresses the audience, using the second person. In utilizing “you,” (lines 4, 5)Langston Hughes reaches out of the perspective of just the poet, and pulls in the audience, speaking directly to and about the reader. Although the speaker is still, in a way speaking about himself, simply using the second person for even those two lines strikes the reader all the more, since the effect is enhanced by the sudden and succinct change. While the poem is about the speaker only, Langston Hughes prevents it from being simply a depressing puddle of tears from an emotionally distraught teenager by using that “you” to extend the radius of effect, so to speak, to all of his readers.
    This theme is continued in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” where Hughes uses one poet to refer to many different states of the Negro throughout history. The one poet admits that he both “raised the pyramids” (line 7) and “heard the singing of the MIssissippi.” (line 8) But Hughes is getting at the collective pool of experience and heritage that every Negro shares in the culture into which he was born. All of these experiences and states of being happened in history, and transcend time and space to add to the heritage of the Negro even as it develops in the modern day.
    Theme for English B is much less subtle in terms of this theme. The writer responds to his professor’s assignment about his identity with a tongue-in-cheek poem about where he lives, what he likes doing, what he thinks about– all of these things can very well be any other human being on the street. By the end of the poem, we see, in the face of the similarities all the differences that one can perceive superficially between the writer and the professor. The way this paradox is presented begs the question: how important are these superficial differences which we so warmly welcome into our prejudices, when, if only we look a little deeper, there lies a whole pool of commonalities that we share, even as human beings that love to “eat, sleep, drink, and be in love”? (line 21).
    This theme of such values and experiences transcending perceived and physical boundaries rings true in much of Langston Hughes’ poetry. In some poems, it is more prominent than others, but we see its presence in throughout his writing. Part of this may be because of the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance, when it was a likely question in many peoples’ minds: how different are these people from us, really? How important are those differences in the face of all that we have in common?

  4. hamlaw Said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

    wow, my line 8 end parenthetical became a smiley face with sunglasses on. awesome.

  5. cathylub Said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 11:17 am

    A recurring theme in Langston Hughes poetry is the idea of trying to show, understand and explain a Negro’s identity, and the struggle to find out just what black people in the 1920s could identify themselves as. Black heritage and identity for them no longer simply consisted of where they came from, but became more about what they had been through and what they were experiencing. Because of their turmoil there was so many different aspects of their lives, they had worn so many different shoes. In Hughes poem, “Negro” he shows the many different things a black “American” could consider himself as. For instance, he describes a Negro as a worker, one whos ancestors helped build the vast pyramids in Egypt, as well as one who helps to now build structures in America. (lines 7-9) He also describes Negros as a victim, one who suffers the redicules and violence of those who don’t admonish them as human (lines 14-16). In another poem Hughes wrote entitled “The Same”, Hughes delves into the experiences that a Negro would experience not only in America but in various parts of the world-exploitation. He writes “It is the same everywhere for me” (line 1) “In the Diamond mines of Kimberley (4)…Black:/exploited, beaten and robbed,/shot and killed./Blood running into/DOLLARS/POUNDS/FRANCS/PRESETAS/LIRE…(lines 9-17). This exploitation has therefore become a major part in a Negro’s identity according to Hughes, and becomes apparent in various aspects of their lives.

    Their music, the blues shows their identity with turmoil, social inequality and exploitation. Their want for change, shows their identity with turmoil, social inequality and exploitation. In the last poem in our selected reading Hughe’s poem “Consider Me” does a great job of showing the typical stress a Negro experiences in society and ultimaltey the internal struggle of identity and wanting to change it. He writes “consider me,/ a colored boy,/once sixteen,/once five, once three/once nobody..” (lines 1-5) The fifth line says alot about a Negro’s identity and identity crisis. In society he is considered a nobody and wants to be considered a somebody. He talks about how his “sugar” or wife has to work too and yet they still don’t make enough to live comfortably (lines 26-30). Economic stress was definitley a huge part of a Negros life in the 1920s. The ending of the poem does an excellent job of summing it all up…”Consider me/Descended also/From the/Mystery.. Mystery being such a powerful word choice for the last word of the poem, because it reflects so greatly the identity crisis that existed in a Negro’s heritage. It was a mystery, something they could not quite figure out or understand and that just presented yet another struggle for them to have to endure.

  6. Laura Said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    Langston Hughes’ recurring theme of the Blues is a theme that is throughout his poems. Blues is a form of music that credits African Americans with its creation. Blues is also related to jazz and could be said to have also created rock and roll. Blues is mostly thought to be sadness or melancholy but in music it also has a lighter tone because of its stylistic origin of folk music.
    First, many of Hughes’ poems are titles for the blues such as “The Weary Blues,” Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret,” “Too Blue” and “Blues at Dawn.” Besides these obvious connections, some poems seem to carry the undertone of sadness within them. This is illustrated by “Jazz Band in A Parisian Cabaret” which explicitly states this in the lines ”Play it/Jazz band!/You know that tune/ That laughs and cries at the same time.” This explains how some of the poems seem to start off happy when really there is a darker undertone, much like blues and jazz music. It can be lively and bright but there are a lot of undertones suggesting the hardships that the musicians face. Another poem, “let America Be America Again” does not say blues in the poem but resembles the Blues style of melancholy and of longing even. The first stanza and the parenthesis of “(America never was America to me)” shows just how America was supposed to be this great place but is not considered to be the same for blacks as it is for whites. This theme of blues reflects the times of the Harlem Renaissance since the Blues and these poets lived in the same time period.

  7. Hilana SMith Said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

    A continuous theme that pervades several of Langston Hughes’s poems would be the idea of music being used to evoke emotion. In the poems “The Weary Blues”, “Negro”, and “Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret”, Langston Hughes discusses the effects that music has on one’s soul and pathos. The profound experience of hearing such tunes is so overwhelming that it has merited to be the subject of many a Langston Hughes poem.
    In the poem “The Weary Blues”, Hughes enumerates on a seeming catharsis; a man purging his problems by means of his piano. “I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan-/ ‘Ain’t got nobody in all this world,/ Ain’t got nobody but ma self.'” (Lines 18-20) The African American man is taking his sadness and via music attempting to remedy it. “Sweet Blues!/ Coming from a black man’s soul.” (Lines 14-15) The beautiful music emerges from his very core. The piano is not the generator, it is simply a modem. The music comes from the inner depths of this man’s being, and helps him deal with his pain.
    In the poem “Negro”, Hughes is stating that he has been a “singer”, having sung both happy, jazzy songs as well as songs of pain. “I carried my sorrow songs./ I made ragtime” (Lines 12-13). His melodies carried him through both the positive and negative.
    Lastly, in the work “Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret”, Hughes again discusses the emotions that music can evoke. “Play it,/ Jazz Band!/ You know that tune/ That laughs and cries at the same time./ You know it.” (Lines 9-13). Clearly, when Hughes mentions the tune laughing and crying, this is a form of personification. He is most likely figuratively stating that the tune makes those who listen to it laugh and cry at the same time. In addition, the commanding way in which he wishes the music to be performed (“Play it,/Jazz band!), it gives the impression that this music is a necessity; a metaphorical escape for the soul. A panacea for all the ills of the world.

  8. Golshan Aghanori Said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

    A recurring theme in Langston Hughes’ poems is the struggle between hope and pain during a hard time for African Americans. It is not easy to be hopeful when you are in pain. However, in Hughes’ poems the pain is described but at the same time you can see hope in it.
    In the poem “Cross”, it’s all about pain, the huge difference between two people that was caused by race. In the end of the poem he says “I wonder where I’m gonna die,/Being neither white nor black?” (line 11-12) It is certainly painful for a child of a white man and a black women to see how different their lives are just because of their race. Even the way they die is different. “My old man died in a fine big house,/My ma died in a shack”(Line 9-10).
    In “Theme for English B” the poem revolves around hope. The speaker clearly states that although you(referring to white man) think we are, we still do the same exact things as you. He is told to “write a page” however, he writes a poem and calls it his “page for English B”. The theme of Hope can be easily seen towards the end of the poem where he says “As I learn from you,/I guess you learn from me-/although you’re older- and white-/and somewhat more free.”(line 37-40) He doesn’t care if he is white and older, he still believes that we can learn from each other, which shows that regardless of all the harshness that was towards them, he still had hope.

  9. Nathan Muller Said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

    Nathan Muller
    I read the first two pages of Langston Hughes’ Featured Writer and I already knew what I was going to write about. Poetry is so unique because a poem can have so many different meanings when read by different people; yet often times all those interpretations are not even close to what made the author write the poem.
    At first glance, or reading, Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” seems to be talking about the history of black people and how deep and ancient it is. Hughes seems to say that the black man has such a profound and meaningful history that stretches back through time so long that they know rivers. What is it to know a river? One knows its twists and turns. One knows where it leads. Perhaps somebody who knows a river is a guide of some sort. I like to think that Hughes suggests that a man knows a river because he has a special connection with the land. I like to believe that Hughes means that “The Negro” is part of the land and has a special connection with the rivers which are possibly the oldest parts of the land. This Negro knows the river like an expert guide; however he also knows it like a friend or brother. The Negro speaks of rivers as he would a friend.
    The reason I found what I want to write about within the first two pages is because of the way I feel about interpreting poetry. My view is that everything in poetry is subjective. Everyone has their own idea of what a poem means; and they are all correct. It’s very special when we are able to find out what the writer was really saying or why he or she wrote the poem in the first place. This is the advantage of living writers, reading of poems by the writer, or in this case, a passage written by the writer in his autobiography explaining what made him write the poem. I love the fact that immediately after I read his poem and came up with my own ideas as to what the poem meant and why he wrote it, I am able to read a passage he wrote explaining his own reasons for it. I am not saying that if what we say differs then I am wrong. I strongly believe that subjectivity applies to the writer and reader. If the reader’s interpretation is different than the writer’s the writer is not necessarily correct. It is true that he is the one who wrote the poem but as I said earlier everyone’s interpretation is a unique and accurate one. Regardless of whose is “correct, it is so fascinating to find out the author’s reasoning immediately after you make your own.

  10. Jacob Schlusselberg Said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

    A recurring theme in many of Langton Hughes’ poems is music; specifically jazz and the Blues. Being that the melody of jazz and the Blues are very soothing and relaxing, Hughes speaks of listening to this style of music during sad times. Often, many people look to music as a “hideaway” from reality. Music has the ability calm people down as well as change their negative mood into a more positive one. Hughes uses many examples throughout his poems showing how music can get people through hard times.
    In “Negro” Hughes speaks how he sang when he was in sorrow. “All the way from Africa to Georgia/I carried my sorrow songs (11-12).” In the poem “Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret” Hughes shows how every single kind of person listens to music – “Play it for the lords and ladies/for the dukes and counts…(3-4)”- and it brings out emotions and different moods, “That laughs and cries at the same time (11).” In “The Wearing Blues”, the Negro plays a tune in order to fall asleep. Throughout the poem (and the song) he speaks of his troubles which seems to be keeping him from sleeping. However, by the end of the poem “He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead (36).” This shows that this person was able to turn to music in order to help deal with his problems.
    Music has the power to change one’s mood from one extreme to another. In this time, some people were going through some hardships and it was very important for them to have music such as jazz and the Blues as an outlet for their emotions.

  11. ditshakov Said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

    An important main idea that runs through most of the Langston Hughes poems that we were assigned to read is the idea of subjugation. Hughes discusses one person having power over another, specifically the subjugee being a black person or a woman. These poems reflect Hughes’s feelings at the time towards how blacks were treated.
    In the poem “Negro”, the poet speaks about how as a negro, he has been forced to be many things. “I’ve been a slave:/Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean./ I brushed the boots of Washington.” (Lines 4-7) These lines show how at that time the black man was sadly viewed and treated as a lesser person. The poem goes on to discuss how the black man has as well been a victim; a victim of the cruel treatment by his white brothers. “They lynch me still in Mississippi” (Line 16) Hughes isn’t simply bemoaning some past event. He is lamenting the present.
    Next, Hughes clearly illustrates the subjugation of blacks in his work “The Same”. He elaborates on the universal plight of blacks around the world- “Black:/ Exploited, beaten and robbed,/ Shot and killed./ Blood running into/ DOLLARS/POUNDS/FRANCS/PESETES/LIRES” (Lines 8-16). The subjugation and cruel treatment of blacks was not an isolated incident, no. It was something that occurred daily around the world.
    Lastly, the ill treatment of women is also an idea that Hughes discusses. In the poem “Ballad of the Fortune Teller”, Hughes portrays how women were exploited by means of trickery. “A fellow came one day./ Madam took him in.” (Lines 9-10) The poem discusses how despite her kindness, ‘Dave’ mistreated her, abused her, left her. The message given here seems to sum up the attitude back then- it does not matter the character of the person, rather, “what” they were. These people could be saints, but simply because they had the stigma of being a black or a woman, many felt they could and should be taken advantage of. Such cruel attitudes towards ‘inferiors’ were the subject of numerous Langston Hughes poems.

  12. ditshakov Said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    An important main idea that runs through most of the Langston Hughes poems that we were assigned to read is the idea of subjugation. Hughes discusses one person having power over another, specifically the subjugee being a black person or a woman. These poems reflect Hughes’s feelings at the time towards how blacks were treated.
    In the poem “Negro”, the poet speaks about how as a negro, he has been forced to be many things. “I’ve been a slave:/Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean./ I brushed the boots of Washington.” (Lines 4-7) These lines show how at that time the black man was sadly viewed and treated as a lesser person. The poem goes on to discuss how the black man has as well been a victim; a victim of the cruel treatment by his white brothers. “They lynch me still in Mississippi” (Line 16) Hughes isn’t simply bemoaning some past event. He is lamenting the present.
    Next, Hughes clearly illustrates the subjugation of blacks in his work “The Same”. He elaborates on the universal plight of blacks around the world- “Black:/ Exploited, beaten and robbed,/ Shot and killed./ Blood running into/ DOLLARS/POUNDS/FRANCS/PESETES/LIRES” (Lines 8-16). The subjugation and cruel treatment of blacks was not an isolated incident, no. It was something that occurred daily around the world.
    Lastly, the ill treatment of women is also an idea that Hughes discusses. In the poem “Ballad of the Fortune Teller”, Hughes portrays how women were exploited by means of trickery. “A fellow came one day./ Madam took him in.” (Lines 9-10) The poem discusses how despite her kindness, ‘Dave’ mistreated her, abused her, left her. The message given here seems to sum up the attitude back then- it does not matter the character of the person, rather, “what” they were. These people could be saints, but simply because they had the stigma of being a black or a woman, many felt they could and should be taken advantage of. Such cruel attitudes towards ‘inferiors’ were the subject of numerous Langston Hughes poems.

  13. sasha Said,

    April 17, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

    Langston Hughes Blog Post
    A Langston Hughes’ poem, giving no consideration to historical context, is a journey all on its own. The poem will exude conviction and power, gaining momentum through its strategic use of diction, imagery, and mood. Yes, a Langston Hughes’ poem stems from an innate passion- a passion that can commonly be felt through the works of many prominent poets. However, once historical context is integrated into the main idea of the work, the poem takes on a whole other meaning, now defined by personal, rather than creative, touches. After considering the social time period in which he grew up, I witnessed a shift in purpose and depth in his works- the poems were now a reflection of his life during the Harlem Renaissance and not just a reflection of life in general. The inner struggle to reconcile two very distinct worlds- what he specifically termed as “double-consciousness”- is a theme which frequently envelopes the burning core of the work as a whole. Many of his poems, such as “Theme for English B,” “Cross,” and “Negro,” serve as ideal portraits of the early 1900s- masterpieces as created by the hands of African Americans. These poems brilliantly showcase the verbal angst of Hughes as he attempts to peacefully merge the two sub-cultures that have constituted and determined his entire life: African roots and American assimilation. An outstanding example of this idea is perpetually presented in “Theme for English B.” When asked to write a paper that, preferably, “comes out of you,” the speaker rummages through the clear-cut challenges of his life, all of which stem from his dark skin tone. The following lines, in my opinion, best exemplify the focus of this particular poem: “You are white/yet a part of me, as I am a part of you/That’s American/Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me/Nor do I often want to be a part of you/But we are, that’s true/As I learn from you/I guess you learn from me/although you’re older-and white/and somewhat more free (lines 30-40).” Here, the speaker is addressing his professor, who is of different skin color and, therefore, of different perspective.

  14. tademuwagun101 Said,

    April 19, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

    A pervasive theme that runs through Langston Hughes work is the concept of white life versus black life. Hughes makes a conscious effort to concentrate on what race implies for an individual rather than how an individual actually is. In his work there is no unity between the two races. Perhaps he magnifies the dissimilarities in order to promote autonomy amongst blacks, or perhaps by exposing the grotesque nature of racism and the estrangement between Americans who only differ in color he can cause people to reconcile their differences. He presents the stark contrast between the denigration, suffering and shame that African Americans experience and the pride and comfort whites experience. We can see this theme in poems such as “Theme for English B”, “Cross”, and “The Weary Blues.”
    In “Theme for English B” Hughes ruminates on the concept of letting a page come out of him and begins with a brief self-survey. Even prior to this we are made privy to the instructor’s specific assignment instructions. The poem begins “The instructor said,/Go home and write/a page tonight./And let that page come out of you-/Then, it will be true” (lines 1-5). The brief introduction to the subject matter sets the tone by starkly differentiating the speaker and the instructor. The instructor speaks in an almost sing song aabb rhyme scheme that belittles his speech. The italics only serve to further separate the white instructor from the colored student.
    The speaker begins his self-survey by saying “I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston Salem” (line 7). This immediately strikes me as somewhat strange. It is clear that being an African-American is part of his definition of himself, but is somewhat illogical to consider the color of your skin a part of your persona. I am sure that if a White American has to write on who he/she is the page would not begin “I am twenty-two, white, born in Winston-Salem.” For Hughes being colored is about more than skin tone. As an African American you embody the stereotypes and social stigmas within American society. In Hughes time being black meant you experienced prejudice, you likely had ancestors that lived in slavery, and you certainly had a different set of life experiences than a white individual. This is evident in statements like “I am the only colored student in my class” (line 10). When he leaves his classes at Columbia he goes down to Harlem, the epicenter of black culture at his time. There is a unique Black autonomy which is shown when the speaker says “Harlem, I hear you” (line 18). He claims to hear New York as well but it is almost an afterthought. The sounds of his fellow African Americans in Harlem rings louder in the ears of the speaker than the faint ramblings of white people in the New York City.
    The speaker further separates black from white by commenting that his teacher is white. He says “You are white-/yet a part of me, as I am a part of you./That’s American” (lines 31-33). The two truncated lines are on the outside of a long line that connects the disparate concepts of being black and white. Yet it is almost as though the unity between the speaker and his teacher is forced. They are a part of each other either ancestrally, associatively, or intellectually but because they are of different colors they do not occupy the same social standing within America.
    This same concept is examined further in “Cross.” The speaker notes that he/she is biracial. “My old man’s a white old man/And my mother’s black” (lines 1-2). We see in the first line yet another separation between white and black. It is also interesting to note that the speaker’s father is an “old man” first and a “white old man” second. In contrast, the speaker’s mother is simply a black woman. The speaker makes amends for cursing his parents but does so in a different way for his black mother and white father. The curse against his father is not examined but the speaker spoke of his mom that he/she may have “wished she were in hell” which is much more cruel (line 6). This juxtaposes the levity with which whites are treated with the malevolence with which blacks are treated.
    In “The Weary Blues” we see the differences between the races in the plight of the black pianist playing “With his ebony hands on each ivory key” (line 9). The piano is personified in the next line and is aware that a black man is playing it. “The poor piano moans with melody” cranking out a tune of black plight and American racial disunity.

  15. Daniel Said,

    April 21, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    Langston Hughes was brought up as an educated black in the Midwest. His mother Mary Langston was one of the first female African American students to attend Oberlin College while Langston Hughes was named class poet of his elementary school class (Kalaidjin 528 and 529). Much of Hughes’s life was spent in Kansas, a state that is predominately white.
    Because Hughes was an educated black that grew up among a white society many of Hughes’s poems focus on his relationship between his white upbringing and black heritage. At first glance “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” seems to be discussing “the white man’s burden” of colonialism. Blacks in the poem appear to be primitive. The negroes bathe in the Euphrates, build [primitive] huts near the Congo, and perform slave labor for the Egyptians (lines 7,8 and 9).
    It is only on line 8 that the interpretation of the poem turns. When Abe Lincoln traveled down the Mississippi he noticed the horrors of the slave trade and became convinced that slavery was wrong. The golden bossom of the Mississippi represents the possibility of a new dawn for Black America (line 10).
    This new page for black America will not be connected with white America but with the earth and its tributaries. The day that black life is associated with the Mississippi will one day be over just like black life had once been associated with the Euphrates, Congo, and Nile (Lines 7,8 and 9). The black soul can survive the servitude in America just like the ancient rivers have survived.
    The golden bossom of the Mississippi represents hope that the next river associated with the “negro” will be one that is good to them. But whatever happens, one thing that will remain constant is black society’s ability to go with the flow of different rivers and survive each day. In this way while the Egyptians and even Lincoln will perish the blacks and the ancient rivers will continue.
    “The Negroes Speak of Rivers” represents Hughes’s ability to represent black history in both an analytical and poetic way. Hughes tries to reconcile Black life in America versus Black life in Africa and manages to connect them through nature. In this way America is just one facet in the lives of African Americans.

    Works Cited:

    Kalaidjian, Walter. Understanding Poetry. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Print.

  16. iosif Said,

    April 21, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

    In Lagston Hughes’ poems, I noticed an underlying theme of of a search for identity. Especially in his poems: ‘Ballad of the Fortune Teller’ and ‘Cross’, he truly expresses his confusion in his identity. In Cross he describes the lives of his mother and father (his ‘old man’). His father was white, and lived in a big house, while his mother who was black, died in a shack. The last two lines really showed me his confusion: ‘I wonder were I’m going to die,/ Being neither white nor black?’
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