Discuss the major influences on Langston Hughes.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It makes sense that Hughes was profoundly impacted by Walt Whitman as well as other giants of American Literature.  When one reads Hughes' "I, Too," it is a reminder that he understood very well the tenets of Whitman and wanted to appropriate Whitman's verse as well as the lyrical nature of Carl Sandburg helped Hughes in articulating what it meant to be Black in America at the time.  From Whitman, Hughes is able to appropriate the American literary tradition of individuality and subjective experience.  Yet, from other writers like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Hughes is able to fully explore what it means to be a hyphenated American in this setting.  This is where the voice of marginalization collides head on with the voice of a subjective experience rooted in theoretical freedom. It is in this ability to combine the element from literary giants like Sandburg and Whitman along with the experience of a Dunbar in America that Hughes is able to carve out his own niche in the lexicon of American Literature.

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