Langston Hughes was probably the most well-known literary force during the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first known black artists to stress a need for his contemporaries to embrace the black jazz culture of the 1920s, as well as the cultural roots in Africa and not-so-distant memory of enslavement in the United States. In formal aspects, Hughes was innovative in that other writers of the Harlem Renaissance stuck with existing literary conventions, while Hughes wrote several poems and stories inspired by the improvised, oral traditions of black culture (Baym, 2221). Proud of his cultural identity, but saddened and angry about racial injustice, the content of much of Hughes’ work is filled with conflict between simply doing as one is told as a black member of society and standing up for injustice and being proud of one’s identity. This relates to a common theme in many of Hughes’ poems that dignity is something that has to be fought for by those who are held back by segregation, poverty, and racial bigotry. The poems “Visitors to the Black Belt”, “Note on Commercial Theatre”, “Democracy”, and “Theme for English B” by Hughes all illustrate the theme of staying true to one’s cultural identity and refusing to compromise it despite the constant daily struggle it meant to be black in an Anglo centric society.
In both “Visitors to the Black Belt” and “Note on the Commercial Theatre”, the speaker that Hughes uses combines the use of the first and second person perspectives to show the relationship between how he (Hughes) feels as black man, towards the white man who doesn’t really seek to understand or help the black community, but instead just appropriates the cultural touchstones. “Visitors to the Black Belt” depicts the rom...
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...struggle for dignity as a black person in the early/mid twentieth century. “Democracy” is a slightly stern and direct request to take action and fight for civil rights. “Theme for English B” is a compassionate and low-key personal anecdote that reiterates the unpracticed concept that “all men are created equal”. Despite the difference in tone and subject, all four poems relate to the central theme that dignity is something that white men may take for granted, but Langston Hughes, as a black man and a writer, sees and feels dignity as fight and a struggle that he faced and that the black community as whole faces every day.
Hughes, Langston. “Visitors to the Black Belt”, Note on Commercial Theatre”, “Democracy”, Theme for English B” : The Norton Anthology of English Literature Gen. ed.
Nina Baym. Shorter 8th ed. New York, 2012. 2221, 2226-2229. Print
The civil rights movement may have technically ended in the nineteen sixties, but America is still feeling the adverse effects of this dark time in history today. African Americans were the group of people most affected by the Civil Rights Act and continue to be today. Great pain and suffering, though, usually amounts to great literature. This period in American history was no exception. Langston Hughes was a prolific writer before, during, and after the Civil Rights Act and produced many classic poems for African American literature. Hughes uses theme, point of view, and historical context in his poems “I, Too” and “Theme for English B” to expand the views on African American culture to his audience members.
It’s no secret that inequality and racial discriminations were high back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Langston Hughes was able to use his work to counterattack this way of thinking in America. He not only led a movement, but also set an example for others to follow. In the poems I stated above, you can tell the Harlem Renaissance influences on his
Like most, the stories we hear as children leave lasting impacts in our heads and stay with us for lifetimes. Hughes was greatly influenced by the stories told by his grandmother as they instilled a sense of racial pride that would become a recurring theme in his works as well as become a staple in the Harlem Renaissance movement. During Hughes’ prominence in the 20’s, America was as prejudiced as ever and the African-American sense of pride and identity throughout the U.S. was at an all time low. Hughes took note of this and made it a common theme to put “the everyday black man” in most of his stories as well as using traditional “negro dialect” to better represent his African-American brethren. Also, at this time Hughes had major disagreements with members of the black middle class, such as W.E.B. DuBois for trying to assimilate and promote more european values and culture, whereas Hughes believed in holding fast to the traditions of the African-American people and avoid having their heritage be whitewashed by black intellectuals.
“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” –Edgar Allan Poe. Poetry is one of the world’s greatest wonders. It is a way to tell a story, raise awareness of a social or political issue, an expression of emotions, an outlet, and last but not least it is an art. Famous poet Langston Hughes uses his poetry as a musical art form to raise awareness of social injustices towards African-Americans during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Although many poets share similarities with one another, Hughes creatively crafted his poetry in a way that was only unique to him during the 1920’s. He implemented different techniques and styles in his poetry that not only helped him excel during the 1920’s, but has also kept him relative in modern times. Famous poems of his such as a “Dream Deferred,” and “I, Too, Sing America” are still being studied and discussed today. Due to the cultural and historical events occurring during the 1920’s Langston Hughes was able to implement unique writing characteristics such as such as irregular use of form, cultural and historical referenced themes and musical influences such as Jazz and the blues that is demonstrative of his writing style. Langston Hughes use of distinct characteristics such as irregular use of form, cultural and historical referenced themes and musical influences such as Jazz and the blues helped highlight the plights of African-Americans during the Harlem Renaissance Era.
When reading the literature of Langston Hughes, I cant help but feeling energetically charged and inspired. Equality, freedom, empowerment, renaissance, justice and perseverance, are just a taste of the subject matter Hughes offers. He amplifies his voice and beliefs through his works which are firmly rooted in race pride and race feeling. Hughes committed himself both to writing and to writing mainly about African Americans. His early love for the “wonderful world of books” was sparked by loneliness and parental neglect. He would soon lose himself in the works of Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence, Carl Sandburg and other literary greats which would lead to enhancing his ever so growing style and grace of oeuvre. Such talent, character, and willpower could only come from one’s life experiences. Hughes had allot to owe to influences such as his grandmother and great uncle John Mercer Langston - a famous African American abolitionist. These influential individuals helped mold Hughes, and their affect shines brightly through his literary works of art.
Writing during the emergence of the “New Negro” movement, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes work to reconcile black life in white America. The trope used by the two poets within “The Harlem Dancer” and “The Weary Blues” is that of a performance and a single speaker’s recollection of it. While both depict an African-American performer presumably consumed by the isolation and oppression of their condition, the intensity of the performances prove to be vastly disparate. Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” features a much more transcendent performance than that of McKay’s “The Harlem Dancer” not only because of the relationship between the audience and the performer, but the degree of ubiquity in descriptions of the performer and the poetic form through which the performance is framed. While neither performer attempts to gain anything from their audience, the impact of their art on the speaker identifies the importance McKay placed on art as a means to build racial pride as well as Hughes interest in art as a means to communicate a common struggle.
Wagner, Jean. "Langston Hughes." _Black Poets of the United States_. Trans. Kenneth Douglas. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1973, 385-474.
As a poet who paved the way for African American artists to flourish in a white dominated world, Langston Hughes changed the face of writers during the era of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes is the descendant of a mixed race and background, but he is considered the father of the “New Negro Movement.” His most noted piece of literature, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” which was written in 1926, still applies to the youth and elderly of Blacks in America. As a young black woman in America’s 21st century, the realization has been made that not many things have changed in regards to the plight of the “Negro” in America. William Pickens said, “The new Negro is not really new; he is the same Negro under new conditions and subjected to new demands” (79). This quote claims that the Negro is neither new nor old but constantly evolving based upon new situations and predicaments. “The Negro Artists and the Racial Mountain” supports the statement that Black Americans are continuously scrutinized for assimilating into Western culture but are praised for embracing Pan-Africanism.
Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B” is a rhetorical poem in which Hughes asks the question about his social and racial status in society. Growing up through the First World War and took part in the Civil Rights Era, Hughes experienced racial tensions while going to school at Columbia University in a time when higher education was still for the affluent and dominantly white. His poem is a reflection of his reaction from a teachers’ writing prompt which influenced him to write on his racial and social tensions which is enhanced by his structure, rhetorical questions, and his use of first person.
James Nathaniel Langston Hughes has a very significant role in the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance, also called the New Negro Movement, was a literary movement of the African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s. Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 and he is not only a poet, but he is also a social activist, playwright, and novelist. His works are mainly influenced by his life in Harlem and he is often considered as the “Poem Laureate of the Harlem Renaissance.” Also, Langston Hughes’ “literary works helped shape American literature and politics” (“Langston Hughes”). Some of his role during the Harlem Renaissance was to promote racial equality, celebrate the life of black people, and encourage his fellow African Americans.
“I swear to the Lord, I still can't see, why Democracy means, everybody but me”. These are the words of Langston Hughes, a black writer and poet from the early twentieth century. This man was famous for his portrayal of the realities of black life and culture in America. Although some literary critics may feel that Hughes’s poetry presented an unattractive view of black life, his poetry demonstrated the reality of their lives. Many of Hughes’s poems stand out in their description of the black experience. Some of the poems that stand out include “Ku Klux,” “House In the World,” and “Children’s Rhymes.” These poems delve into the world of fear, segregation, and the lost innocence of black culture. These poems genuinely demonstrate the difficult lives most black people had to live.
During the 1920's and 30’s, America went through a period of astonishing artistic creativity, the majority of which was concentrated in one neighborhood of New York City, Harlem. The creators of this period of growth in the arts were African-American writers and other artists. Langston Hughes is considered to be one of the most influential writers of the period know as the Harlem Renaissance. With the use of blues and jazz Hughes managed to express a range of different themes all revolving around the Negro. He played a major role in the Harlem Renaissance, helping to create and express black culture. He also wrote of political views and ideas, racial inequality and his opinion on religion. I believe that Langston Hughes’ poetry helps to capture the era know as the Harlem Renaissance.
The contradiction of being both black and American was a great one for Hughes. Although this disparity was troublesome, his situation as such granted him an almost begged status; due to his place as a “black American” poet, his work was all the more accessible. Hughes’ black experience was sensationalized. Using his “black experience” as a façade, however, Hughes was able to obscure his own torments and insecurities regarding his ambiguous sexuality, his parents and their relationship, and his status as a public figure.
Langston Hughes was deemed the "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race," a fitting title which the man who fueled the Harlem Renaissance deserved. But what if looking at Hughes within the narrow confines of the perspective that he was a "black poet" does not fully give him credit or fully explain his works? What if one actually stereotypes Hughes and his works by these over-general definitions that cause readers to look at his poetry expecting to see "blackness?" Any person's unique experiences in life and the sense of personal identity this forms most definitely affects the way he or she views the world. This molded view of the world can, in turn, be communicated by the person through artistic expression. Taking this logic into account, to more fully comprehend the message and force of Hughes' poetry one must look, not just to his work, but also at the experiences in his life that constructed his ideas about society and his own identity. In looking at Hughes' biography, one studies his struggle to form a self-identity that reflected both his African American and mainstream white cultural influence; consequently, this mixing of black and white identity that occurred throughout Hughes' life is reflected in his poem "The Weary Blues."
Langston Hughes once said in his poem, The Black Man Speaks, “I swear to the Lord / I still can't see / Why Democracy means / Everybody but me.” This quotation by Hughes is able to perfectly depict inequality which was just one of many struggles African Americans faced during Hughes’ time. Although literary critics felt that Langston Hughes portrayed an unattractive view of black life, the poems demonstrate reality. Hughes’ poetry contains many issues that typically plagued blacks at the time including racial abuse, lack of opportunity, and segregation.