Langston Hughes was an American novelist, poet, social activist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s. Hughes’ works often portrayed the experiences and struggles of African Americans giving voice to their hopes, dreams and realities.
His poetry in particular was celebrated for its powerful and lyrical style of the African American experience in a time of racial injustice and discrimination. Growing up in several Midwestern communities, Hughes started writing a lot when he was young. As a young man, he moved to New York City where he started his profession. Today, we brought some of his finest collection of poem for you that everyone should read once in a lifetime.
Table of Contents
1. Mother to Son (1922)
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Some lines from the poem are above written signifies, Mother who uses the metaphor of a staircase to convey the struggles and perseverance of Black life. As she climbs the stairs, she becomes a figure akin to a religious ascension.
“Mother to Son” is a powerful and timeless poem written by Langston Hughes in 1922. In the poem, a mother shares her life experiences with her son stating that her journey hasn’t been easy. She uses vivid imagery to describe the obstacles she has faced, comparing them to a non-existent “crystal stair”. She encourages her son to persevere and keep moving forward.
This poem has had a significant impact, as it was frequently referenced by Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. The poem utilizes strong elements of parallelism throughout. Critics have extensively analyzed the poem particularly concentrate on its style and its portrayal of the mother figure.
2. The Weary Blues (1926)
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway. . . .
He did a lazy sway. . . .
The above are some line which is picked from the poem that goes on it is obvious the speaker is in a bar, or was. The speaker is telling a story. He starts by setting the mood with an alliteration, “droning a drowsy syncopated tune / Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon. The narrator wants the reader or listener to have a sense of the story he is going to tell. He wants everyone to know how much fun he had.
The Weary Blues was first published in the Urban League magazine Opportunity which was written by American poet Langston Hughes, in 1925.
It is a poem that takes the reader to an old Harlem bar on Lenox Avenue where they witness a piano player passionately performing the blues. The speaker closely watches the piano player’s body language and listens to the tone of his voice which conveys the depth of his emotions.
Throughout the poem, various literary devices are employed to help the reader navigate through the complex mix of feelings experienced by the blues player. Readers can get a close-up look at the life and hardships of this gifted musician thanks to the descriptive language and eye-catching imagery.
3. My People
The night is beautiful, So the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful, So the eyes of my people. Beautiful, also, is the sun. Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people
My People is a poem written by poet Langston Hughes. This poem is about inequality, pride and hope. Langston Hughes was the author of several novels, a memoir, song lyrics, children’s books, plays, countless songs and more than 20 books.
4. I, Too
I, Too, Langston Hughes beautifully expresses his desire for equality by highlighting the importance of patience. He challenges the notion that patriotism should be limited by race, emphasizing that all human have the right to love and serve their country regardless of their skin color.
He ties together the sense of the unity that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln spoke about regarding the separate and diverse parts of the American democracy Through his powerful words, Hughes urges society to embrace diversity and work towards a more inclusive and equal future.
5. Note on Commercial Theatre
But someday somebody’ll
Stand up and talk about me,
And write about me-
Black and beautiful-
And sing about me,
And put on plays about me!
I reckon it’ll be
Yes, it’ll be me.
The poem’s above written lines express the notion that an African American culture must originate from within its own community in order to persist.
Hughes writes about the issues of the day, and “Note on Commercial Theatre” is no different. It shows an anxiety over the dependence of black culture on white patronage. It was hard for African Americans to become published or find an audience outside of Harlem without going through white publishing houses.
Also Read: 12 Best Poems Written by Robert Frost
More Poems by Langston Hughes
- I Look at the World
- Montage of a Dream Deferred
- Let America Be America Again
- Theme for English B
- Come to the Waldorf Astoria
- The Negro Speaks of Rivers
- Madam and the Phone Bill