In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” what point do you think Hughes is making with the names for rivers at four different periods of history?

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is narrated in the first person by a speaker who insistently claims knowledge of and association with “rivers ancient as the world.” In the central stanza, he refers to four rivers in succession: the Euphrates, the Congo, the Nile, and the Mississippi.

The Euphrates is one of the rivers of the fertile crescent in Mesopotamia (a name which itself means “in the middle of the rivers”). The Congo flows through central...

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