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Analysis of "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"

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Analysis of "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"

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  • Jan. 2011
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“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes
I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

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 pyramids 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 the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes thought process:
Hughes was inspired to write this poem while on a train ride to Mexico. He saw this river on its way to the South and thought how its history linked all black people. Abe Lincoln is mentioned because he often told the story of his own trip down the Mississippi River and saw the atrocities of slaves being sold. Being sold down the Mississippi was not a good thing during slave times. All the rivers mentioned besides the Mississippi are all in Africa referring to his African origin. The ancientness of these rivers shows the struggle blacks have been through for centuries. Its “muddy bosom” refers to his being born anew from a new mother: starting a new life. “All golden in the sunset” says he’s turning this negative journey into gold (which is valuable) trying to make something positive come out of his journey. I chose this poem because I think it is very simple and gets to the point. Every Langston Hughes poem I have read, I have liked, so I looked for a poem by him. I like how it says the truth, but not in an angry way. I like how it...

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