langston hughes (1902 – 1967)

LANGSTON HUGHES (1902 – 1967)
As a poet and playwright, Langston Hughes was a leading African-American writer during the Harlem Renaissance in
New York. He also wrote novels, short stories, songs, and children's books.
Hughes, who grew up in a wealthy, well-educated family in the Midwest and traveled abroad, came to New York City
to attend Columbia University in 1921. At his father's urging, he studied engineering there. He left school, however,
after just two semesters. Hughes was far more interested in a career as a writer than as an engineer. In fact, by the
time he entered Columbia, his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" had already been published in a magazine. In
addition, Hughes was offended by the racism he experienced at Columbia.
Living in Manhattan in the 1920s provided Hughes with many sources of creative inspiration as well as opportunities
to get his work published. He enjoyed the popular Broadway hit SHUFFLE ALONG, written by African-American
songwriters. Hughes had the good fortune to develop his talents in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. Looking
back at that time, he wrote, "More than Paris, or the Shakespeare country, or Berlin, or the Alps, I wanted to see
Harlem, the greatest Negro city in the world."
In 1925, his poems were published in New York in a collection called THE WEARY BLUES. In a review of this book that
appeared in the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, Du Bose Heyward wrote, "Always intensely subjective, passionate,
keenly sensitive to beauty and possessed of an unfaltering musical sense, Langston Hughes has given us a 'first book'
that marks the opening of a career well worth watching." In 1926, after winning a poetry contest, his first book of
poetry was published. In poems such as "Dream Boogie," Hughes tried to capture the rhythms of jazz and blues.
Despite the fact that Hughes was raised in a wealthy, well-educated family, he chose to write about poor, less literate
characters. African-American intellectuals at the time criticized him for portraying blacks in what they felt was an
unflattering manner. Hughes responded that he sympathized with the intellectuals' cause but believed "that the
masses of our people had as much in their lives to put into books as did those more fortunate ones..."
By Langston Hughes
By Langston Hughes
I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than
the flow
of human blood in human veins.
Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Listen closely:
You'll hear their feet
Beating out and Beating out a --
I bathed in the Euphrates 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 singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn
all golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
You think
It's a happy beat?
Listen to it closely:
Ain't you heard
something underneath
like a -What did I say?
I'm happy!
Take it away!
Hey, pop!