Langston Hughes’s Poems, i too and the Negroes Speaks of Rivers

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After the horrors of World War I (1914-19), many people questioned their society and beliefs. This becomes the catalyst for the Modernist movement in literature. This includes a break from tradition, and strong reactions toward political, social views. Not only does anger and rebellion appear but sadness and stories of despair and struggle people have been through appears. Writer langston Hughes was born in missouri but grew up in a broke family constantly moving. He held many small jobs to keep a living and soon started writing poetry. His poems told stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself. Langston Hughes' reflections of celebration of African American culture, influence of jazz, and ideas of equality in his literature not only contributed to Modernist writing through its style and ideas, but also used as a political statement at the time.

Langston Hughes's poems, I Too,and The Negroes Speaks of Rivers, illustrates the celebration of African American culture incorporated in Hughes writing. Modernist writing focuses on the break of culture and celebration of African American culture. For example, Hughes poem I Too demonstrates that patriotism is not based on race. Hughes focuses on a darker brother, one who gets sent away when company comes, but eats well and grows strong (Hughes). The words, sent away illustrates how African Americans were treated and degraded by others. Although this is combated by the phrase, eats well and grows strong which portrays the African Americans still grow and can be one who loves America too. Given this information one can realize that through Hughes writing he is depicting African American life but also celebrating all they have accomplished in America. Furthermore, Hughes poem The Negroes Speaks of Rivers, was not only his first mature poem but also is also his most anthologized poem. Written in 1921 for the Crisis magazine The Negroes Speaks of Rivers emphasizes that, I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins (Hughes.) On a figurative level, the poem speaks off the wiseness and hollowness of the African Americans and their culture. Given this information readers can infer that Africans knowledge for centuries emphasized in the poem celebrates them in a more abstract way. Many of Hughes works celebrated African American culture in a very direct way but others in a more abstract way.

Hughes not only impacted celebration of African AMerican culture in his writing but also influenced jazz during this era. He influenced jazz through his poems such as Weary Blues and his essay, Jazz As Communication. Hughes was among the first to use jazz rhythms and dialect to depict the life of urban blacks in his work. In Weary Blues it has a set of two voices, one being the man observing and the other being the Negro being observed singing his blues. The man observing recollects, I heard a Negro play. In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan Ain't got nobody in all this world And put ma troubles on the shelf (Hughes). The words, melancholy tone exhibit the type of sad music the man was playing. Knowing this the reader can infer what jazz music was based around in the Harlem renaissance. Jazz was influenced by not only sadness but also could be upbeat. Not only did Hughes portray the themes of sadness but like in his poem Harlem night Club he illustrates the more upbeat side of Jazz.

Hughes' writing highlights political statements, and influenced modernist writing. From this, he developed a style that celebrated African American culture, influenced jazz, and portrayed ideas of equality. It comes to no shock that because of the hardships of World War I these ideas of questioning society would appear in the writing. For people in the 1920s the writing style as well as society changes in their midst. Although this is not bad because they were introduced to new styles, music, and beliefs. So just as beliefs changed so will the type of writing that they will read.

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Langston Hughes's poems, I Too and The Negroes Speaks of Rivers. (2019, Jul 31). Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from

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