Biography of Langston Hughes

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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.

Works Cited
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

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