In what ways does "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" reflect quite well the statement that poetic images are evocative.

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," Langston Hughes writes of rivers. Rivers are a life source and have existed throughout history. So shall the black man or woman exist throughout history.

The first person voice is a "collective voice of black people from ancient times (3000 b.c.e.) to the present." When the speaker states that his "soul has grown deep like the rivers," he is linking "the movement and endurance and power of the great rivers to black history."

Just as the rivers have endured throughout history, so has the black man endured. Just as the rivers have been a source of life for centuries, so shall the black man exist right beside these great rivers. The black man is an permanent image just as the rivers are permanent images. As long as there are rivers, the black man shall survive. No doubt, the "purpose of the poem seems to evoke feelings of cultural connectedness."

The poem is "perhaps the most profound of [Hughes] poems of heritage and strength." The speaker of the poem recognizes a connection to Africa and African culture as he speaks of rivers.

No doubt, the black man shall exist and endure and grow deep as the rivers. Just as the rivers run and cut through obstacles of earth and rock, so shall the black man or woman persevere through trials and tribulations.

The poem evokes feelings of pride and strength. It is a celebration of the black experience:

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.         I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.   I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

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