Langston Hughes is regarded as one of the "most eloquent of American poets to have sung the wounds of political injustice." While some of his poetry can be classified as non-racial most of it can be categorized as literature of protest. Hughes background and personal beliefs were quite influential in his writing and it is reflected in his tremendous discontent for the "white man's world." Three of his works that that display this feeling and similar theme include "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "Porter," and "Refugee in America."
Langston Hughes was born and educated in the South during what can be classified as "Jim Crow" years. Although through most of his career he did not really live in the South, he did not forget all of its injustices. In fact, the experiences he gained from that portion of his life became the basis for his form of protest literature. Needless to say, his early life played a major influence throughout his career.
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers", one of Hughes most famous works, is basically a "history" of black society. In this poem, black society is, in a way, the speaker. The speaker has watched how slavery has taken its people out of a state of nature and placed them into "bondage." The poem is obviously addressed to the members of black society who seem to find some discontentment in the lifestyle they live in a "white man's world." However, there is an optimistic undertone in that the speaker does show how much African Americans have endured. It is obvious that Hughes believes that "black power" will reemerge in one form or another.
Through the course of this poem the speaker is basically saying that he has seen black history from beginning to end and understands all the anguish the black man has endured since being removed from a state of nature. Hughes uses a great deal of connotation throughout this poem. The most obvious example is the word "muddy" which not only arouses a great deal of sensory image but also means "black." He represents his race with the word "mud." A major shift in this poem occurs when the speaker mentions the "raising of the pyramids" which was a slave practice of ancient Egypt. While this shows the point at which there was a major "downfall" in black culture there still seems to be an optimistic undertone for the future. In the end the theme seems to be this: If black society keeps pushing anything is possible and blacks could very conceivably return to a state of nature.
"Porter", another of Hughes works is representative of just how discontent blacks are with the white society in which they live. The speaker in this poem could be any member of black society who recognizes that black society's actions are what keeps them beneath the white man in terms of society ranking. Throughout this poem the speaker gives way to the wishes of the white man. This poem is directed to any black man who feels dominated by white...