Langston Hughs Essay Research Paper He

Langston Hughs Essay, Research Paper

? He was called ? Shakespeare in Harlem,? The blues poet, the ?Simple? man on the street, The voice of Black Harlem ? (Tolson 1) Possessing qualities unlike any other, Langston Hughes believed that there was no difference between the common experiences of Black America and his own personal experiences. ?His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920 ?s ? (Tolson 1) Hughes wrote vividly about the life, luxury, and hardships of the poor black working class. Langston Hughes? poetry proved to be a primary influence in shaping of the Harlem Renaissance, for his poetry was a personal account attempted to raise the awareness and consciousness of America during this time period.

? The Negro speaks of Rivers? not only reflects Hughes personal encounter with the crossing of the Mississippi river, however, utilizes metaphors to reflect African history. ?Hughes did not specifically reference any one particular African-American, nor did he imply that he is the speaker. The term ?Negro? in the title simply refers to the African-American population as a whole and their collective experiences from Africa to America ? (M.R.L) Hughes indirectly uses his personal experience to relate the transition of the African slaves from Africa to America:

? I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramid above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

Went down to New Orleans, and I?ve seen its muddy bosom

Turn all golden in sunset (Hughes 55).

Hughes begins in Africa. He bathes in the Euphrates River, then builds his house on the Congo River, and looks upon the Nile River, the three most prominent rivers in Africa. The transition from Africa to America begins when Hughes hears the singing of the Mississippi, and follows it down to New Orleans. In the early 1900 ?s, Hughes crossed the Mississippi River on his way through the south (Meltzer 33). ? In this poem ?The Negro speaks of Rivers, ? Langston Hughes chronicled the journey of Africans from their native homeland to their dispersal and enslavement of America? (M.R.L) Langston Hughes utilizes his personal experience of crossing the Mississippi River and equates it with a river metaphor, the African descendents journey the America (Tolson 6).

Langston Hughes was hired on a steward on the SS West Hesseltine to Dakar, Africa. He felt a bond with the black dockworkers that were being ordered around by the white men. Although Langston may have felt a common bond, the Africans said they had ? nothing in common with him because he had light skin and straight hair, and they considered him to be a white man? (Jackson 5). ?Langston Hughes was seen as to black for America and too white for Africa? (Reuben 4). The poem ? The cross?, talks of the conflicts Hughes felt:

? My Old man died in a fine big house.

My ma died in a shack,

I wonder where I?m going to die,

Being neither white nor black.?

Once again Hughes uses his personal experiences as a basis fro his poetry.

?October 16? is one of Langston Hughes early poems that recall memories from his past. His grandmother, Mary Langston, raised Langston Hughes until he was thirteen years old (berry 12). During this time, Hughes grandmother, with the help of her first husband Lewis Sheridan Leary, were conductors on the Underground Railroad in 1858. In 1859 Leary rode with john brown and was killed trying to escape after the raid on the arsenal at Harper?s ferry (berry 14). Mary was given the ? bloody shawl? that Sheridan had warn when he died. ? Young Langston would often see it draped around her shoulders while she rocked in her favorite chair and told him heroic stories, and on the chilly nights she covered little Langston with the shawl? (Berry 16). ? October 16? came about several years later:

? Perhaps

You will recall

John Brown

Went to shoot your way to freedom?.

Not only did Hughes incorporate childhood memories into the poem, he work vividly of poor black life.

? Not without laughter,? Portrays Hughes early childhood growing up in Joplin Missouri. At age 13, Hughes moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband. Hughes grandmother is portrayed as ? Grandma Hager? in the story. She is the strong, wise nurturing grandmother. Hughes represents the relationship between his mother and stepfather through characters anjee and her husband Jimmie boy. Hughes tells the tale of a poor family growing up in Kansas. He not only tells the hardships however, he finds little laughter in everyday events in the story. ? The issues and characters are alive and living today!? (Reuben 4). Hughes shows the growth, the caring, the feelings, and the everyday actions and well being of a poor black family in ? Not without laughter.? The characters portrayed are much like his own family, yet done indiscreetly so every individual that reads this work can relate to any one of the given characters.

In 1923 Langston Hughes traveled abroad on a freighter to the Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Belgium Congo, Angola, and guinea in Africa. One of his favorite pastimes whether abroad or in Washington D.C. Or Harlem, New York was sitting in the clubs listening to blue, jazz and writing poetry. His writing changed a new rhythm emerged (Reuben 7). A series of poems such as ? The weary Blues? were published in this time period. After traveling abroad, he returned to Harlem in 1924, during a period known as the Harlem Renaissance. In 1925 he moved to Washington, o.k. , And still spent time in the blues and jazz clubs (Metlzer 30). Hughes said ? I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on seventh street?these songs?. had the pulse beat of the people who keep on going? (Tolson 5).

Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967. Hughes accomplishment over his lifetime changed the artistic expression of the Harlem renaissance. He simply did not write about black life, he wrote in a way that educated America. He never tried to portray African American life the was some may stereotype it. Hughes related his won personal experience and hardships, and created characters that were true to life and represented the prevalent social themes of the historical time period in which he wrote in. All of his works in someway are relevant to a historical event. All of his works are someway relevant to his life.

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