Sandy CashProfessor BouchardENG 132Langston Hughes’s DreamApril 1, 2012 Langston Hughes’s Dream In Langston Hughes’ poems, a common theme is racism. This is because during hislife he had to deal with this. Looking at the time when Hughes lived, and how he himself wastreated, helps to understand why he wrote on racism. Hughes wrote plenty on racism to thepoint where he was called the “unchallenged spokesman of the American Negro”(LibraryOfCongress). One can see this in his poetry, like “My People,” and “I Too.” He also,played an important part in the Harlem Renaissance and in a model for other AfricanAmerican writers. ("Langston Hughes") Langston Hughes was born in Joplin Missouri in 1902, and died on May 22, 1967(DiYanni 704). Langston Hughes lived during the time when Martin Luther King Jr. wasalive and fighting against segregation. This was the time of Jim Crow Laws, where it waslegalized segregation between blacks and whites ("Jim Crow laws"). Railways, busses,restaurants, neighborhoods, boardinghouses, and public parks were segregated; separateschools, and hospitals, generally of inferior quality, were chosen for blacks (“Jim Crowlaws”). By World War I, even places of employment were segregated, and it was not untilafter World War II that a fight on Jim Crow in the South began to develop (“Jim Crow”). Langston Hughes lived in Kansas and Ohio before he began studying at ColumbiaUniversity in New York and then later going on to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania(DiYanni 701). He worked many odd jobs, from a seaman, to a newspaper correspondent, to
an editor, and a busboy (DiYanni 701). While doing these odd jobs, he visited everycontinent, except Australia, and Antarctica (LibraryOfCongress). It was while he wasworking as a busboy in a hotel in Washington D.C. that he slipped a couple of his poems tothe poet Vachel Lindsay, who recognized how well they were written, and this beganHughes’s writing career (LibraryOfCongress). Before Martin Luther King Jr. started leading people against segregation, LangstonHughes was already wishing for a time when his people would have equal rights with whites.This is shown in his poem “I Too,” in which he talks about how he is also an America, evenif his skin is darker, and yet right now the whites can not see this, for they have them eat in adifferent place. He goes on to say, one day whites will not dare discriminate against him, forthey will actually see him for who he is and they will be ashamed of how they treated himbefore. This poem, is almost like a prophecy, for this is what happens as shown in history.Another example, of how Hughes wishes for equality are his poems “My People.” In “MyPeople,” he compares the beauty of the night, stars and sun to his people, saying they arebeautiful people too. Another issue Hughes shows in racism is how the landlords and rent mendiscriminate against African Americans, in his poems “Ballad of the Landlord,” and in“Madam and the Rent Man.” First, in “Ballad of the Landlord,” Hughes talks about how thehouse has a leak, and the steps are broken, but the landlord will not fix them, he just wantshis rent. When the resident refuses to pay until the landlord fixes these issues, the landlordsays he will get eviction orders and turn off the heat; but when the resident also threatenshim, the landlord calls the police. The next day the headlines in the press are “Man ThreatensLandlord/Tenant Held No Bail/Judge Gives Negro 90 Days In Country Jail” (Hughes716-717). In the second poem, there are similarities to “Ballad of the Landlord,” but instead
the tenant is a woman, and the ending leaves it open: we do not know what happens, if she isevicted or goes to jail. During his lifetime, he wrote a few children books, such as The First Book forNegroes, documentary works, historical works, dramatic pieces, which included plays,musicals, and operettas, his own autobiography, edited books, poetry books, radio andtelevision scripts, translated other poetry books, and had a weekly column in the ChicagoDefender called “Simple ” (LibraryOfCongress) (DiYanni 701). It was for his versatileability in writing that made him a great model for writers, not just for Africa Americans. Hughes was also an important influence in the Harlem Renaissance, which hebasically defined in his essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" ("LangstonHughes"). This term is used to describe a blossoming of African-American literature, music,dance and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City (DiYanni 700).The Harlem Renaissance was portraits of black life in America, Black American culture, andracial pride among African Americans (“Harlem Renaissance”). This is where jazz and theblues came from. Hughes used these influences to write some of his poetry, such as in thestanza form of the blues (DiYanni 702). An example of this would be in “Trumpet Player,”and in “Same in Blues.” Langston Hughes played an important role in the Harlem Renaissance, whichportrays of black life in America, Black American culture, and racial pride among AfricanAmericans (“Harlem Renaissance”). He also was a good model for Africa American writersand other writers too, for he was very versatile writer, he could write poetry, children’sbooks, and documentaries. His poetry has a common theme about racism, and thediscrimination against African Americans, because this is what was happening in his life.