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James Mercer Langston Hughes was one of the most prominent writers that emerged during the Harlem Renaissance period. Hughes wrote in many genres, but he receives most recognition for his poetry. Hughes’s poems are expressions of hope, aspirations, and pride. But most all combine the need for more equal treatment between the white and black races. Many aspects of including racism, the civil rights movement, and pride in black culture affected the work of Hughes.


Racism influenced the themes of Hughes’ work. Racism was a part of Hughes’ everyday life because discriminatory practices remained largely unchallenged until 141. In Hughes’ earlier years he spent much of his time moving, and this added with being an African-American was difficult when it came time of fitting in as the usual student would. Hughes then spent a year with his father in Mexico as a release of the racism of the North. Moreover, Hughes themes of racism in his poems were greatly affected by what he felt inside. Hughes poem “Dream Variations” has the theme for African Americans in following their dreams and not allowing boundaries of race stop them. Also the poem creates a strong suggestion that the light and dark hours of the day correlate with white and black culture and people. The statement “the white day” not only connects the time when the sun is out but also hints that the whole work day world Hughes grew up in was mostly controlled by whites. Much of Hughes’ work throughout his career was written about dreams and thought of as the dominant theme in his poetry. Racism greatly affected the themes of Hughes’ poems because racism was part of Hughes’ everyday life and because of how racism affected his emotions.


The critical analysis of Hughes poems connects how he perceives racism and connects with the reader. For example, “The Bitter River” can be considered one of Hughes’ more deeply moving poems. In the eye of Critic Jim Beatty, “The poem offers not only as astute account of dominant oppression in the U.S., it lessons that contemporary critical theory would do well to heed. He speaks of how Hughes’ goes beyond the dream of equal treatment and civil rights and describes how Hughes brings up the point equal but separate. Furthermore, in Hughes’ poem “The Blackish Blues” the reader sees the identity that a white society has given the black man and how the system does not allow for African-Americans achieving success. In the poem Hughes speaks of the closed hearts and minds of the white man. Hughes also hints of the fact that the poor black man is tired of his living condition and wants a fair chance. The critical analysis of Hughes’ poems speaks of the connection of theme and reader by creating a deeply moving poem and by showing the reader the African-American identity.


The greatest civil rights issue in the U.S. has concerned the status of a black minority. For example, in the 10’s and 10’s the upper Manhattan district of Harlem had became a flourishing capital of African-American culture as writers, musicians, artists, photographers, philosophers, and intellectuals. This would later become known as the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes was among many considered a leading creative figure during the Harlem Renaissance. “We younger Negro artists now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. Hughes spoke for most of the writers and artists when he wrote his essay The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” where black artists could express themselves freely, no matter what the black public or white public thought. Because Hughess long and distinguished poetic career and his innovations in style and subject matter, he has inspired two generations of black writers and have immeasurably affected the shape of contemporary black literature. In conclusion, Hughes played a major role in the civil rights movement with his poems and writing style.


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Next, the civil rights movement affected many of the themes of Hughes’ poems. For instance, the African-American want of being considered a true citizen, the situation with mulatto children, and the attitudes of southern Whites toward a Black man are all themes found in Hughes’ poems. Hughes’ poem “I, Too shows the perspective of a black man and how he sees no difference in how he values America compared with White people, but the difference lies in how America values him


I, too, sing America.


I am the dark brother.


They send me to eat in the kitchen


When company comes,


But I laugh,


And eat well,


And grow strong.


Then, in Hughes’ poem “Mulatto”, he speaks of the bitter life a half-black, half-white child faces and the rejection they feel from a dominant white society. Hughes’ enlisted as a steward on a freighter bound for West Africa. The Africans considered him white because of his lighter brown skin and straight dark hair. He then met a mulatto child who was ignored by the Africans and the whites. This was a source of inspiration for his poem, Mulatto. The civil rights movement affected many of the themes of Hughes’ poems including the African-American want of being considered a true citizen and by the situation with children who were mulatto.


Finally, the civil rights movement was influenced by Hughes’ ideals of the attitudes of southern Whites towards Black men. First, in Hughes’ poem “The Blackish Blues” Hughes speaks of the closed hearts and minds of the white man


While you’re livin’ in your mansion


You don’t know what hard times means.


While you’re livin’ in your mansion


You don’t know what hard times means.


Poor workin’ man’s wife is starvin,


Your wife is livin’ like a queen.


In the poem Hughes hints of the fact that the poor black man is tired of his living condition and wants a fair chance. Moreover, Hughes’ poem creates an insight of the life he lived. For example Hughes’ stepfather took a job at the steel mill in Cleveland and Hughes later stated, the heat in the mill beat him down and leaving the only option of quitting. Moreover, Hughes’ ideals on White attitudes were greatly affected by his childhood. When Hughes was born his parents soon separated. Langstons childhood was spent dealing with racism in the care of family friends. As the only way in dealing with his loneliness, Hughes began wrote poetry. The civil rights movement was affected by Hughes’ ideals and his ideals were affected by the childhood he lived.


As a result, African pride and negritude themes are very prominent in Hughes’s works. Subsequently, Hughes’ searched for a compromise of being a black poet and writing like a white poet. A major point of Hughes’s work includes the bond between African Americans and black culture. One of Hughes’s earliest poems “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” speaks of a mystic union of blacks throughout the world and traces back their history back to the creation of the world and for founding the greatest civilizations that humanity has ever known. Though the poem was written in a mere fifteen minutes, the poem contains dramatic expression of the true meaning of being a black American. Also, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” creates awareness and pride in black culture. Moreover, Hughes’ takes pride in his culture, imagery plays an important role in his poems. For example, in the poem “The Bitter River” Hughes’ uses water in representing time and the heritage of African Americans. Hughes considered the roles the river must have played in human interaction and acknowledges the fact that rivers are more ancient in the history of the earth. In addition, Hughes’ brings out the point of harsh and violent treatment his people faced in America. A prominent line “My soul has grown deep like the rivers” can be found again at the end of the poem for reestablishment of the connection of river and man. African pride and negritude themes are very prominent in Hughes’ poems while imagery plays an important role.


Hughes pride in black music also led him in creating meaning within his poems. For example in Hughes’ poem “The Weary Blues” the speaker expresses his loneliness, displeasure, and uncertainty about his present and his future. Hughes spent his free time in blues and jazz clubs where he would find inspirations for his work. African-American writers and artists were building a great pride and intensity within the black community. These forces pushed for publishing, patriotism, and the promotion of African-American culture. The poem also can be interpreted from the eyes of the audience in the poem. Moreover, many of Hughes poems should be read aloud in feeling pride. “Montage of a Dream Deferred”, is a series of verse sketches that should be read aloud with accompaniment. Jazz can also be found in Hughes’ poem of “Ask Your Mama Twelve Moods for Jazz”, which is considered by some critics one of Hughess finest work. Hughes also founded theatre groups in Harlem, Chicago, and Los Angeles. By founding the clubs he was promoting the spread of the Harlem Renaissance because more African-Americans could write and present their art and music. Hughes pride in Black music and the feeling his poems helped in creating meaning within the poems.


In addition Hughes believed writing for children was important, insuring that pride in the African-American culture was taught. As a result, he wrote the successful “Popo and Fifina,” and eventually published a dozen childrens books, on subjects such as jazz, Africa, and the West Indies. In addition, in many ways Hughes always portrayed loyalty within the principles he had laid down for the younger black writers in 16. His art was firmly rooted in race pride and race feeling even as he cherished his freedom as an artist. He was both nationalist and cosmopolitan.


Moreover, in the 10’s and 140’s Hughes founded theatre groups in Harlem, Chicago, and Los Angeles. By founding the clubs he was promoting the spread of the Harlem Renaissance because more African-Americans could write and present their art and music. Hughes believed insuring pride within children and by founding theatre groups was important in continuing Black pride.


Langston Hughes was a very powerful and inspirational poet. His innovations in form and voice influenced many writers alike. Because of aspects including racism, the civil rights movement, and pride in black culture Hughes produced many pieces that are considered some of the best poems written.





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