Langston Hughes is the greatest poet of America who absorbed this country well enough to depict a wide variety of important events, destiny and nature of American people. He was more than a poet but a thinker mostly pondering the issues of the black population of the U.S. Langston Hughes is a bright representative of the Harlem Renaissance, the artistic movement of the 1920s. Being an Afro-American, he was very much sensitive to the problems of the black people and had a peculiar sense of this issue desperately looking for the ways to secure his identity and realize his potential as a poet. Hughes’s lyrics are a philosophical and critical view on such events as the Great Depression, World War II, the Black Power movement, The Civil Rights Movement and Jazz. The poet’s style was greatly influenced by the black urban music and his social ambiguity.
A series of his poems are about the life and culture of the blacks, the origins of the nation, their struggle for freedom and equality. Among them stands a poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" written by Langston in 1920 and published a year later in Crisis Magazine. He wrote it while travelling to Mexico at the age of eighteen. Having finished school in Cleveland, Ohio, Langston was on his way to his father, who had left the United States because of racism. As we see the theme of racial segregation and harassment inflamed his soul at the life start.
Just at the time, the train was crossing the Mississippi Langston was impressed by the beauty of the river and simultaneously thought about the slavery. Having a long journey ahead he started writing. The Negro Speaks of Rivers is the embodiment of the black community voice. The poet speaks on behalf of the whole black nation from the past – depicting it with the words “when the dawns were young” - to the present. The deep and mighty rivers represent the depths of people’s soul and great life experience obtained throughout the centuries. Hughes tracks back the origins of the black people from the times of the Egyptian pyramids. He speaks of the African heritage by mentioning the Congo River. On the whole, he connected the Afro-American community with three continents emphasizing that the blacks were nearly as old as the rivers flowing there. It means that they were born free at the time where no slavery and racism ever existed. The Negro Speaks of Rivers is both lyrical and epic poem that combines pride of his ancestors and grief for their enslavement.
Langston Hughes is the greatest poet of America who absorbed this country well enough to depict a wide variety of important events, destiny and nature of American people. He was more than a poet but a thinker mostly pondering the issues of the black population of the U.S. Langston Hughes is a bright representative of the Harlem Renaissance, the artistic movement of the 1920s.