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18 April 2013
Analysis and Interpretation of Langston Hughes' "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
Unfortunately, themes of racism and prejudice seem to be all too common when one thinks of American history. These negative connotations stem from the United States involvement in slavery and then issues with African-American civil rights that reached an apex in the 1950s and 1960s. Still, these historical issues still affect by many Americans today. An example of this cultural situation in America, and how it has affected African Americans, can be found in Langston Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." The poem is a self stated eulogy regarding an African American's feelings about his self and his ancestry, and how this rich ancient heritage exists within himself and all other modern African descended individuals. This paper analyzes and interprets "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in an attempt to understand what Langston Hughes was trying to convey in the poem.

A strong theme throughout Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is the theme of Negro pride and the connection through heritage. Hughes utilized passionate words, historical scenes, and the idea of life-bringing rivers to invoke the theme of pride and ancestral connection of individuals of African descent. Each scene Hughes utilizes are rich and invoke pride, honor, and nobility, except for the final scene which is during the emancipation of African-Americans in the U.S. This gives the reader a sense of the importance of African heritage to civilization, describing areas of elevated importance, the Euphrates river in Mesopotamia, the pyramids of Egypt, but ends with the modern issues of African discrimination in talking of Abe Lincoln and Mississippi. The historical scenes in the poem possess robust imagery of rivers, cultures of history, and blood in veins, all portray a sense of the eternal and enduring forces in the world. Hughes made a point that Negro culture is undying and timeless, rich...