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The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human viens.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euprates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the signing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The 1920s saw Langston Hughes come of age as a poet (Barksdale 16). The Negro Speaks of Rivers was his first major poem to be published in The Crisis, the official organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (Berry 24). He followed with two books of poetry, The Weary Blues in 1926 and Fine Clothes to the Jew in 1927. He also won Opportunity magazine's poetry prize for his poem "The Weary Blues" in 1925. Also in 1926, he published his first major literary essay titled "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (Barksdale 16). In this essay, Hughes revealed that choosing the life of the black folk as a basis for his art was really a way of choosing himself, a way of possessing himself through the rhythms and traditions of black people (Kent 19). The Negro Speaks of Rivers illustrates Langston Hughes's choice of the ways of black folk as the form for his creative expression.

Langston spent the summer of 1919 in Mexico with his father. In self-imposed exile, James Hughes, who was himself black, openly declared he hated blacks and often referred to them as "niggers" (Rampersad 39). Arnold Rampersad argues that nothing else in James Hughes so alienated his son, particularly given the circumstances of the era in which Langston's creative personality was taking form. In 1919, W.E.B. DuBois, to whom Langston would dedicate The Negro Speaks of Riv...

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