Hughes's poems influenced the Harlem Renaissance for two reasons. First, because he was elemental in exposing the reality of conditions for African-Americans in the 40s and 50s. But perhaps even more meaningful was instilling both a sense of pride and hope: pride in their culture and hope that the American Dream extended beyond "whiteness."
Hughes's poem, "I, Too" is a good example of this argument:
I, too, sing America.I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then. Besides,They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--I, too, am America.