Langtson Hughes Essay

1176 words - 5 pages

Langston Hughes fulfilled numerous roles during his lifetime, and provided priceless contributions to the development of a unique style of American literature during the Harlem Renaissance. He was a revolutionary poet, author, and playwright during the Civil Rights Era, and he included in his poetry elements of social commentary and political activism. Hughes’ impassioned prose was sprinkled with logical and emotional arguments against the injustice of racism that prevailed legally until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed (Latham). Hughes offered invaluable beneficence to both American literature as an author of the Harlem Renaissance, and to the progression of civil rights for African ...view middle of the document...

Hughes’ passion for writing combined beautifully with his advocacy for racial equality, and this is clearly demonstrated in his poetry. His African-American descent and the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s and 60’s heavily influenced his writing.
In Hughes’ poem, “I, Too, Sing America”, published in 1945, (Hill) the narrator faces oppression and is implied to be a black slave serving a white family. This, however, has failed to break his spirit, and he describes his personal hopes of racial equality. The narrator asserts that he is also an American, regardless of his race, which is evident in the title of the piece, “I, Too, Sing America”. He notes that he is the “darker brother” (Line 2) and that he is “sent to eat in the kitchen / when company comes” (Lines 3 & 4), but he is hopeful for the future, and that the white majority would “be ashamed” (Line 17) of their mistreatment of the African-American race. Hughes expresses his dream of one day obtaining racial equality in the United States, and according to Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, Hughes maintains a tone that is “optimistic, despite failure” (Ford). Ford notes Hughes’ recurring expression of his aspirations for full acquisition of civil rights for African-Americans through his poetry and in this piece especially. “I, Too, Sing America” reveals the black man’s plight in pre-Civil Rights era of United States history when racism was decidedly more pronounced, but also expressed optimism for the future of his people (Ford). Hughes also criticized the frivolity of prejudice, and argued that it is beneficial to no one.
Another poem that supports the theme is “Merry-Go-Round” written by Hughes in 1942 (Hill). In this work, the speaker is presumably a child from the South, who is accustomed to segregated public facilities. The merry-go-round helps the reader understand the arbitrariness of the practice of segregation, because there is no front or back on a merry-go-round. In the first line, the narrator references the Jim Crow Laws, enacted in 1876, that mandated racial segregation in all public facilities (Latham). Latham elaborates, noting that these laws were only officially instituted in the southern states, and superseded the ‘Black Codes’ that existed during the first half of the nineteenth century (Latham). Hughes mentions, from the perspective of the “displaced child”, (Tunc) “Down South where I come from / White and colored / Can’t sit side by side” (Hughes). The puzzled child continued on to note that in the...

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