Langston Hughes Essays
In poetry, Hughes often uses the visual images and sound patterns associated with good poetry in order to capture his audience's attention, focusing it on the racial topic at hand.
This can be seen quite clearly through one of Hughes's earliest and most popular poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." In this poem, Hughes begins with the statement, "I've known rivers" (1), and continues to list the rivers that he has known.
The impact that literature had on Hughes must have been powerful, as his body of work was quite impressive.
Probably the most important issue on Hughes's life was racism and race issues. Loyalty to his race and interest in the issue of abolition and African-American rights was in Hughes's blood, as his relatives had been at Harpers Ferry, had worked tirelessly to fight for abolition, and who had been famous and influential in the African-American communities across the nation (Rampersad para. Despite his rich lineage, Hughes's reaction to racism was his own.
First, he writes that he has known "human rivers," and the rivers that are even older than those, rivers such as the Euphrates, the Congo, the Nile, and the Mississippi (Hughes 1-8).
While this might seem, at first, like a more natural topic than one about racism and conflict among the races, the rivers are all those having something to do with African-American culture.
For readers who are encountering Hughes for the first time, a biographical sketch then relates the details of his life and four essays survey the critical reception of Hughes work, explore its cultural and historical contexts, situate Hughes among his contemporaries, and review key themes in his work.
Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the writer can then move on to other essays that explore topics like Hughes' relations to the Harlem Renaissance and black aesthetics, blues music, religion, and modernism.