Langston Hughes, a remarkable and talented social activist, poet, and writer, displays the realistic internal struggles of African Americans through his writing. Hughes wrote during an era where social inequality weighed heavily on the American nation. Hughes was able to display the internal conflicts of frustrated African Americans, in regards to their goals and dreams, in his poem, “Harlem”. Utilizing poetic devices, Hughes is able to successfully display the emotional conflicts of the frustrations that African Americans faced in regards to their goals and dreams during the 1950’s. One of the most essential poetic devices Hughes uses in “Harlem” is the use of figurative language.
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. Langston Hughes was one of the most influential black poets of the twentieth century. He took part in the Harlem Renaissance and taught the world about black life and culture.
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers", one of Hughes most famous works, is basically a "history" of black society. In this poem, black society is, in a way, the speaker. The speaker has watched how slavery has taken its people out of a state of nature and placed them into "bondage." The poem is obviously addressed to the members of black society who seem to find some discontentment in the lifestyle they live in a "white man's world." However, there is an optimistic undertone in that the speaker does show how much African Americans have endured.
In folklore writer Sterling A. Brown’s most renowned poem, “Ma Rainey,” the music of the blues (specifically, the abridged version of “Backwater Blues” found in-text) validates a number of hardships seen in African-American daily life—from problems of poverty and segregation to issues of identity formation—and unifies African Americans in the validation of their shared histories. In his 1932 poem, “Ma Rainey,” Brown uses Rainey’s music to fulfill both of the above purposes and immerse and implicate the audience so that they become active participants. This, in turn, allows for audience members’ spiritual catharsis: rather than being saved by God, blues music empowers African Americans to rescue themselves from a tragic plight Initially, Brown’s “Ma Rainey” uses the music of the blues to address hardship, a thematic centrality of the musical genre. The poem begins by referencing Rainey’s “Backwater Blues” with the following line: “It rained fo’ days an’ de skies was dark as night” (42). The lyrics describe a tempest, which regularly symbolizes internal or external unrest in works of art.
In order for black Americans to assimilate into the society that has caused them and their ancestors pain, they feel the need to wear a mask that allows them to at least superficially express their gratitude for having been kept alive. In this fifteen-line poem, Dunbar expresses his anger at having to hide his emotions. When black Americans were beaten, lynched and discriminated against, they were obligated to absorb it and mask their true emotions with a smile. Paul Laurence Dunbar, a son of freed slaves, goes on to emphasize the severity of the pain and suffering that these masks cover up by concealing the emotions behind a façade of smiles and grins. The mask, in essence, becomes a symbol of both weakness and strength.
Challenging racism and oppression by bringing to the foreground narratives of humiliation and violence against their people” according to Mothe Subhash in “Violation of Human Rights of the Negro's in the Poems of Langston Hughes”. The theme of powerlessness leads to passion that is shown in Hughes work like in “I, Too”, “Theme for English B” and “Dream Deferred” challenging racism at its core. In the “I Too” poem it’s very heartfelt because Hughes is speaking from the soul around racism. He passed through the Harlem Renaissance why facing struggles with racism. However, his writing seems clear, by using a “pictorial quality he draws a picture before our eyes what life was in 1930's” (Subhash).
Morrison starts by outlining the style and circumstances of these narratives, one to capture the historical personal life and account of racism, and two the move to persuade the probably non black reader of the humanity of the black people enslaved. Morrison then goes on to call out the White privilege of being able to write "reality" unquestioned while
Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” is a lyric poem in which the point of attraction, the mask, represents the oppression and sadness held by African Americans in the late 19th century, around the time of slavery. As the poem progresses, Dunbar reveals the façade of the mask, portrayed in the third stanza where the speaker states, “But let the dream otherwise” (13). The unreal character of the mask has played a significant role over the life of African Americans, whom pretend to put on a smile when they feel sad internally. This ocassion, according to Dunbar, is the “debt we pay to human guile," meaning that their sadness is related to them deceiving others. Unlike his other poems, with its prevalent use of black dialect, Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” acts as “an apologia (or justification) for the minstrel quality of some of his dialect poems” (Desmet, Hart and Miller 466).
O Blues!” (Norton 1733) “The Weary Blues” captures an important element of the black identity, that of its music and the soul which is put into its expression. The poem captures that soul of the black man as he wails a mellow tune to the beat of a blues rhythm. Langston Hughes established himself as the poet laureate of Harlem. He served as the voice of the downtrodden, as well the elite in black culture. The criticism that he once received is now praise as his influence is manifested in the affirmation of the black identity.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first black poets in his time to confront the hypocrisy he saw around him. “We wear the mask” was one of his outstanding works that addressed racial injustices in American society. This poem was all about the assertion that “we wear the masks” to hide their true feeling. Yet, he goes on to emphasize that the ruthlessness of suffering and pain that these masks try to cover up because they had to keep all the pains by themselves without expressing. According to William Carroll, “The poem closes with a repetition of a sentiment stated earlier: ‘But let the world dream otherwise, / we wear the mask!’ The people show a dogged determination to keep the true nature of their sufferings to themselves and to present to others an outward show of happiness and lack of care.