May 5, 2010
Reaction #2 Langston Hughes Poetry
A Literary Analysis of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
The Harlem Renaissance can be considered as “the cultural boom” in African-American history. Spanning from the 1920s into the mid-1930s, the Harlem Renaissance was an apex in African-American intellectualism. The period is also recognized as the “New Negro Movement”—named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Alain LeRoy Locke was an American educator, writer, and philosopher, who most consider as the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Historians recall him as a leader and chief interpreter of the movement. In his anthology, he brings out a montage of works by many well-known Africans and African-Americans including such figures as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barth, William Grant Still, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, and John Dewey (Locke). One of these figures wrote one of the most profound poems still read today. Langston Hughes was an American poet whose most prominent works came out during the Harlem Renaissance. The poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was Hughes’ first published poem and it was his signature too. Only 17 years old when he wrote it, Hughes created the poem while he was on a train headed to Mexico where he would live with his father for a year. As his train crossed the Mississippi River, he was astonished by how beautiful the river was and the thought of how that river had a role in maintaining slavery in America came into his mind and he started writing. Let’s start off with the title. The title has the term “negro” in it. Now how can we identify this? Well, the term “negro” tells us about the time period which takes us back to the early 20th century when “negro” was self-identifiable with the black community for that is the term that they adopted. However, we see that the term is only used in the title which places emphasis on its...