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Langston Hughes Essay, Research Paper

The Harlem Renaissance was a great and powerful era in black history. Blues and Jazz flourished throughout the streets of New York, and young black artist began to arise an important part of this era had to be the inspirational writings of Mr. Langston Hughes. Born in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes was raised by his grandmother after his parents had divorced. He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio and went off to Mexico to live with his father for fifteen months. While in Mexico, Hughes lived a very rural life and wrote many of his first poems which although never published began to distinguish him as a writer. He soon returned to home for a short period in 1923 before he joined the crew of the SS Malone bound for Africa. From there he visited many places including Paris, Venice and Genoa before once again returning to America, to live in Harlem, New York.

Although it was not until 1926 that Hughes was officially discovered as a poet, he wrote many poems while still in high school. While working in Washington D.C. as a busboy, Hughes left three of his poems beside the plate of Vachel Lindsey, an American poet, who liked Hughes? poetry and helped him publicize his writings. Living in Harlem, he soon discovered the Culture and literary circle of the New Negro Writers. As best said by the Health Anthology of American Literature, ?Hughes made the spiritual, blues and jazz the basis of his poetic expressions.? Which in fact he did in some works such as The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and The Weary Blues.

Most of his influences came from fellow black writers. Names such as, Dubois, Locke, Jesse Redmonfaset, Jean Toomer, Arna Bontemps and Carl Van Vechten, inspired Hughes in his form and writing style. His poems often portrayed the trials, tribulations, struggles and thoughts of a young Negro growing up in the twenties through sixties. His main goal was to concern about the treatment of African Americans in this country, and to pursue civil and social justice. One of

his most famous works would be his continuing sage of Jesse B. Semple also known as Simple. Hughes wrote columns about this fictional character, who dealt with very non-fictional problems. Jesse, was really Hughes? voice who expressed the views and ideas of young black Americans. Creating Simple to be smart, strong witted and wise, allowed Hughes to publish and undermind the standard of our pretentious society, while ironically and humorously pointing out the hypocritical nature of American Racism. Hughes went on writing four series of writings about Simple including Simple speaks his mind (1950), Simple takes a wife (1953), Simple Strikes a claim (1957), and Simples Uncle Sam (1965).

Hughes used a variety of themes in both his poetry and his prose. His voice was very moving when he read his poems publicly. His voice was both rich and poetic and gave strong inspiration and love to the black community. He was a great writer who completed a two volume autobiography, and edited many anthologies and pictorial volumes. Hughes dazzled writing for forty years and never gave up protesting for the rights of African Americans. He gave many motivational speeches across the nation supporting the black movement.

Hughes continued his career publishing many books of poetry and prose. One of his particularly interesting poems was this one entitled, Cross.


My old man?s a white old man,

and my old mothers black.

If I ever cursed my old white man,

I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother,

and wished she were in hell.

I?m sorry for that evil wish,

and now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house,

My ma died in a shack.

I wonder where I?m going to die,

Being neither white nor black.

This poem explores the deepest emotions and troubles of a young man born into a world of confusion. Confused by his heritage but arrogant in his pride. He is growing up in the whirl of

a white society, and cannot decide whether he is white or black. Hughes, using a black mother and white father, completely makes it easy for the reader to understand and almost foreshadow where this poem is going. It is evident that there is an inner sense of not belonging in this child. In line three through eight, it is clear that the child is sorry for all the pain he has brought on to his parents, unknowingly. He fells remorse for all the curses and bad wishes he said to his parents, now that they have died. But this all because of a bigger problem. Now that his parents are both died he has no one turn to, to help him figure out what his is. He can?t seem to figure out whether he is going to die in riches, or rags. This is the great dilemma Hughes presents to the reader, and leaving the audience in query to this un-answerable question. He cannot seem to find any truth in himself whatsoever, this child is and forever will be lost in his own identity. Hughes uses this boys struggle symbolically, not to show the pressures of a ?crossed? child, but rather to show how we as a society stereotype the races. The white father dying in a fine house, whereas the mother dies in a shack, depicts the common view of the white race as being a more upscale and richer society, and the black culture oppressed in poverty and forever bound to the slums of the world. This is Langston Hughes, and his style and famous portrayals of urban life.

?No one enjoyed being a Negro as much as Langston Hughes.? said by a close friend in The Health Anthology of Literature?s biography of Hughes, best describe his inspiration.

Hughes was very committed to the fight for the black society, and however he could he displayed this conviction in his writings. In Not Without Laughter, a famous book by Hughes, he best displays the life of a Negro growing up in a white run society of the fifties. This was what distinguished Hughes as a writer, a playwright and an activist.

As for the Harlem Renaissance, it combined many great writers. Langston Hughes although, may be considered the most powerful among the many.

Some said it was his voice, others said it was his love for the Negro, but it?s clear that it was his ability to enhance our love of humanity itself, Views on our society and always widening the horizons of peace and joy, to each and every culture.

-A Brief History of Langston Hughes. http://www.poets.org/lit/poet/lhughfst.htm

Download date: May 2, 200 6:58 pm.

-Encyclopedia Americana Volume #14 ? 19999

-Literature and the Language Arts. Eileen Slater, Christine Gensmer. Published by

EMC/Paradigm Publishing ? 1996 by EMC Corporation

-Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99? ? 1999 by The Microsoft Corporation

-(James) Langston Hughes (1902-1967) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ihas/poet/hughes.html

Download date : May 2, 2000 7:20 pm

-Langston Hughes, Bibliographical summary from The Health Anthology of American Literature

Volume 2. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~nick/e309k/texts/hughes/hughes-bio.html

Download date: May 2, 2000 6:23 pm.

-Webster?s International Encyclopedia 99? Encyclopedia Hughes, (James Mercer) Langston

Page 18933 of 42655 ? 1998 by Websters Publishing

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