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How is discrimination and Black pride represented in Langston Hughes' poetry?

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lola19 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 20, 2009 at 8:53 AM via web

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How is discrimination and Black pride represented in Langston Hughes' poetry?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 20, 2009 at 9:04 AM (Answer #1)

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One Hughes poem that reflects both racial discrimination and racial pride is "As I Grew Older." In this poem, a wall serves as a metaphor for racial prejudice and discrimination. As the poem's persona matures, he becomes aware of the wall that rises before him, blocking his path and covering him with shadows:

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.

Instead of accepting this barrier between himself and his dreams, however, he turns to his own "dark hands" to break down the wall:

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!

Hughes expresses faith in himself and his own strength to achieve his dreams. He will not "lie down in the shadow" of the wall. He will instead act with pride and courage, using his own hands to move forward:

Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

Despite the prejudice and discrimination that stands between himself and his dreams, the poem's persona refuses to play the role of a victim. His pride will not allow it. 

Perhaps the most famous of Hughes' poems that speaks specifically of pride in his African American heritage is "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."

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