Langston Hughes' 'Negro': Pride in Being African-American

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Negro: Pride in being African-American In 1926, amid rampant racial injustice, Langston Hughes wrote a poem called “Negro.” What Hughes wrote is a classic poem about the history and lives of African-Americans. Being African American in the 1920s, Hughes experienced prejudice and unfairness in all areas of life. Hence, the product of those experiences is reflected in the intensity and sincerity of “Negro.” Since “Negro” was written by an African-American, it carries with it a great deal of credibility that it would not have if it were written by a non-black person. In today’s politically correct environment, the title “Negro” may provoke controversy with some of the public. However, that is the opposite reaction that Hughes likely intended when he wrote the poem. Once a person gets beyond the title and reads the poem, the reaction is likely to be one of appreciation. Written during the Harlem Renaissance, “Negro” is typified by uplifting elements that celebrate African-American culture. The title “Negro” reveals who is the speaker. In addition, the first stanza clearly identifies the speaker as “I am a Negro” (line 1). Ironically, the speaker is not just one person. The speaker represents all African-Americans. The speaker is Langston Hughes and every African-American person who ever existed. The similes in the first stanza, “black as the night” (2) and “black like the depths of my Africa” (3), go to more than just describing the color of the speaker’s skin, they delve into the cultural roots of the speaker. The use of “Negro” (1), “black” (2), and “my Africa” (3) illustrates the deep cultural ties of the speaker. The second stanza, “I’ve been a slave” (4), continues with the cultural identification of African-Americans and starts the history lesson. Hughes uses snippets of African-American history to show many of the atrocities, struggles, and

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