African American History in the Poems of Langston Hughes Essay

African American History in the Poems of Langston Hughes Essay

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African American History in the Poems of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was an African American poet who was one of the first
black voices to be heard in America. He was distinct among his
contemporaries with his writing about the blacks' experiences and
history. His pride of his race and history was apparent in most of his

In his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" his pride of his history and
civilization is apparent by the repetition of the pronoun "I" in most
of the lines. He is proud that his roots go back to the ancient
civilizations which where associated with the great Rivers of Asia and
Africa namely the Euphrates, the Nile and the Congo.

Hughes repeats, "I've known rivers" which indicates the connection of
black people with the beginning of human history. He also
repeats, "My soul has grown deep like the rivers" which suggests the
wisdom that is related to rivers; it also suggests that his soul bears
the imprint of the sufferings of slavery and racism.

The poem implies the whole history of African Americans' slavery
without mentioning the word itself. He narrates this history from the
beginning of time, when he "bathed in the Euphrates" and "built [his]
hut near the Congo" as he was living a normal life. Then he "looked
upon the Nile and raised the Pyramids above it", as the building of
the Pyramids was the act of slaves. Then "Abe Lincoln went down to New
Orleans", this precise line implies the blacks' history of slavery in
America. It tells of existence of the slavery for a long period in
America and of the efforts to abolish it, which ended by the Civil War
in 1865 and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation for freeing the
slaves. Therefore, it is the history of people who were fr...

... middle of paper ...

"Dreams". Since dreams are the first step in any act, then black
people have to dream in order to gain their freedom which is
symbolized here by the" bird".

He also hints in the poem at the oppression of white people to blacks.
He considers America a "barren field" that is devoid of warm feelings
and mercy. This" barren field" is" frozen with snow"; this symbolizes
the white people who practise all sorts of oppression on the black

Thus, it is evident that Langston Hughes in his poetry aimed at
sending a message to the audience who most of them were whites. He was
telling them about the history and civilization of the African
Americans. He was speaking of the blacks' sufferings from slavery,
discrimination and racism. He was aiming at showing his pride of his
black ancestry and the contributions of the black people to the
American civilization.

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