In Langston Hughes’s poem, Harlem, he questions what happens to a “dream deferred” and he lists multiple possibilities that all involve a dream going away (Hughes, Harlem). This poem seems to define Hughes’s life of not wanting to see his own dreams pass him by despite moving from place to place due to his parents’ separation and economic struggles (Otfinoski). Beyond that, Hughes faced racism that could have gotten in the way of his own goals, but instead of letting this deter him, he used it as fuel to pursue a literary career. During the 20th century, Hughes’s worldview was greatly impacted by the Civil Rights Movement and the effects of the World War I, which caused his poetry to revolve around racial discrimination against African Americans.
James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri (Otfinoski). His mother wrote poetry and his father wanted to be a lawyer, but he was rejected by an all-white examination board to take a bar exam (Otfinoski). When he was young, his parents separated and his father moved to Mexico to escape the racism, so Hughes “wandered from place to place” with his mother and grandmother (Otfinoski). His grandmother’s second husband, Hughes’s grandfather, Charles Harold Langston, was a committed abolitionist and Virginia’s first black congressman (Otfinoski). As Hughes grew up, his grandmother enrolled him at Harrison Street School, where he encountered his first experience with white people, and it taught him “not to hate all white people” (Otfinoski). Hughes tried to achieve his goal throughout high school and college, until he finally stumbled upon a major turning point in his life when he met a poet, Vachel Lindsay, as a “tall, black busboy” (Otfinoski). Hughes made...
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- - -. "I, Too, Sing America." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 2014. Poets.org. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
- - -. "Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?" Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 2014. Poets.org. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Johnson, Karen Joy. "African Americans in the 20th century." American History Online. New York: Facts on File, 2011. Facts On File. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
"Langston Hughes." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Otfinoski, Steven. "Hughes, Langston." American History Online. New York: Facts On File, 1994. Facts On File. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
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