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Each of the four rivers mentioned in "The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes is significant to the history of African Americans.
Hughes writes about “the Euphrates when dawns were young.” He is speaking about the earliest civilizations. Evidence of the earliest humans was located during archeological expeditions in the Euphrates River Valley; therefore, he is saying that the African race has been in existence since the dawn of time.
Next, speaker turns to the Congo. Many early civilizations developed along the banks of the Congo River. He writes, that “it lulled me to sleep,” which speaks to the rise and fall of these civilizations with sleep referencing death.
In the next line, he writes about the pyramids along the Nile. The pyramids are one of the wonders of the world and he is alluding to the African race as being instrumental in the development of this ancient architectural feat.
The last river he speaks of is the Mississippi as Lincoln was traveling to New Orleans. The muddy river looked golden as the sun set over it. In these lines, he is speaking of Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The muddy Mississippi represents the issues associated with slavery while the golden sunset represents the end of slavery and the golden opportunities of free men.
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