It was the year 1865… the Civil War had just ended and salves were considered free. Many ex slaves were asking their selves, “What do we do now?” A large majority of ex slaves migrated to northern cities. Getting out of the south was the first on many African- American’s agenda. One of the major cities that many ex slaves migrated to was Harlem, New York City. Author Carol S. Berg, stated; “During the 1920’s and well into the 1930’s, Harlem produced a cultural richness that made it a mecca for New Yorkers of all colors and creeds”. This would later be called the Harlem Renaissance. Carol S. Berg goes on to explain that, “Writers and musicians were the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, helping to make Harlem a social and cultural magnet.” One of the biggest influencers of this time was Langston Hughes. According to Dr. Laurie Kirszner, “Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902…”(996). Hughes would go on to become one of the most loved and even criticized authors of the Harlem Renaissance. One of the reasons Hughes became such an influential figure was because he did not write about fake stories about how good life was and how everything was okay. Dr. Kirszner described Hughes style of writing as, “Not only did Hughes deal honestly in his novels with the daily life’s and struggles of African Americans” (996). The Harlem Renaissance was very important to Langston Hughes development as a poet because he wrote about the life and hardships that African American’s faced during this time period.
During the Harlem Renaissance, the African American culture was praised rather than frowned upon. Although, the African American cultured was being praised in the first time in American history, there were still many accounts of racism and injustice. The writings of Langston Hughes give detailed stories about the hardships faced by all ages. For example, in Hughes poem, “Theme for English B”, Hughes describes being the only colored student in his class, and then he tries to give wisdom that his race does not make him a less superior individual:
You are white-
Yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be part of me.
Nor do I often want to be part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me-
Although you’re older- and white-
And somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
As one reads this poem it is evident that Langston Hughes is trying to be a light for African Americans. He could have easily used this as a poem to express his anger and disgust with the society around him. One can also understand that as Author Carol Franks describes, “Although Hughes, like most writers, objected to reducing authors to labels, such as “black” or woman” or “American”. This comes from Hughes being labeled his whole life.
Later on in Hughes’s writing career one can tell...