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Speaking of Hughes
Langston Hughes was a great poet as well as a great philosopher. He fought to find meaning in oppression and spoke of his own personal struggles with it. Many critics have analyzed his poems and see him as a leading African American poet who is a non-racist as well as a highly intelligent person. He put his soul into the poems he wrote and is idolized for speaking the truth about the society he lived in. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, by Langston Hughes, is a perfect example of his feeling towards society and of the treatment of blacks.
Langston Hughes wants the reader to realize the decivilizing power of oppression in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. At first, this title may produce the thought of a black man who is merely describing a river. While reading the poem though, it is clear that Hughes places intense feeling in his words and wants the reader to analyze what he is saying. In the phrase,
“My soul has grown deep like rivers.”,
Hughes intentionally spaces the words to show exactly how he feels. It’s almost as if he is saying the phrase out loud and is pained by how his soul has grown. It is even more symbolic by the fact that that line of the poem stands all on its own. In conclusion, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” can be summed up as Hughes’ expression of the apparent and inhumane characteristics of slavery, and slavery’s lasting effect on society.
Langston Hughes will always be known as a great American poet, but he has also been the topic of many poetic criticism articles. One critic states that Hughes, “found an analogy between the river that flowed through his native Midwest and the ancient rivers that watered the lands where his race was born”(Farell, 1981). This is definitely true. Every river that he speaks of in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” has a connection to slavery. For example, the Mississippi River represents the southern states that welcomed slavery, and the Nile River runs by the pyramids that were constructed entirely by slaves. Another critic of Hughes says that this particular poem was created in “direct response to the needs of black people”(Rampersad, 1986). This too is true because at the time when this poem was written African Americans were struggling for true equality in the U. S. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” presents many facts that should be considered and thought about when looked at on an interpretive level.
In conclusion, Langston Hughes uses this poem as a way to express his deep feelings. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is Hughes’ view on the hardships of being a black man. He successfully relates his life to that of his ancestors to show just how long oppression and prejudice has corrupt our society. In the end, hopefully the readers of this poem will understand Hughes grief and change their ways.
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African-American poetry, Jazz poetry, Harlem Renaissance, Guggenheim Fellows, Langston Hughes, Omega Psi Phi, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, The Weary Blues, On the Pulse of Morning
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