A Dream Deferred - the Poetry of Langston Hughes

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The poetry of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Harlem, is an effective commentary on the condition of blacks in America during the 20th Century. Hughes places particular emphasis on Harlem, a black area in New York that became a destination of many hopeful blacks in the first half of the 1900ís. In much of Hughes' poetry, a theme that runs throughout is that of a "dream deferred." The recurrence of a"dream deferred" in several Hughes poems paints a clear picture of the disappointment and dismay that blacks in America faced in Harlem. Furthermore, as each poem develops, so does the feeling behind a"dream deferred," growing more serious and even angry with each new stanza.To understand Hughes' idea of the"dream deferred," one must have an understanding of the history of Harlem. First intended to be an upper class white community, Harlem was the home of many fancy brownstones that attracted wealthy whites. Between 1906 and 1910, when whites were forcing blacks out of their neighborhoods in uptown Manhattan, the blacks began to move into Harlem. Due to racial fears, the whites in the area moved out. Between 1910 and the early 1940's, more blacks began flooding into the area from all over the world, fleeing from the racial intolerance of the South and the economic problems of the Caribbean and Latin America. Eventually Harlem became an entirely black area. However, this town once filled with much potential soon became riddled with overpopulation, exploitation, and poverty. Thus, what awaited new arrivals was not a dream; rather, it was a"dream deferred" (Harlem Today).Hughes' first poem"Harlem" clearly outlines the"dream deferred" theme, setting the pace for the poems to follow. The first line of this poem is"What happens to a dream deferred?" In the case of this poem, the dream is of the promise of Harlem, and what blacks hoped to find there: opportunity, better living conditions, and freedom from racial intolerance. When blacks arrived in...
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