(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The poems of Langston Hughes’s Selected Poems of Langston Hughes were gathered by the poet from several of his earlier collections, including: The Weary Blues (1926), Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927), Dear Lovely Death (1931), Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), Fields of Wonder (1947), One Way Ticket (1949), and Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). Representative of the body of Hughes’s poetry, the collection includes his best poems: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “The Weary Blues,” “Song for a Dark Girl,” “Sylvester’s Dying Bed,” “I, Too,” “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” and “Refugee in America.”

Hughes’s poetry is an exploration of black identity, not only the sorrows and tribulations faced by black Americans but also the warm joy and humor of Hughes’s people. He writes in “Negro”: “I am a Negro:/ Black as the night is black,/ Black like the depths of my Africa.” This is a resolute proclamation confronting racial adversity: “The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo./ They lynch me still in Mississippi.” Hughes refuses, however, to allow his poetry to become a podium for anger; rather, he offers readers portraits of the black experience and, consequently, draws his readers into a nearer understanding of black identity.

One of the strongest of Hughes’s poems is “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” The poem muses upon what rivers...

(The entire section is 540 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Bloom, Harold, ed. Langston Hughes. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Emanuel, James A. Langston Hughes. New York: Twayne, 1967.

Miller, R. Baxter. The Art of Imagination of Langston Hughes. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1989.