The Harlem Renaissance took place in 1920s to the mid 1930s, it happened in New York City and it was a cultural bloom. The literary and artistic movement spurred a new black cultural identity. The reason why it occurred was because after the civil war the former slaves all went and lived in the same area, and that was the area where people started creating their own art and literary to define who they were. During the Harlem Renaissance the black people had almost no rights in politics and in society with white people.
Even though no deference were shown to the black people, heroes and inspirations flourished and all of them were extremely passionate with what they did. One of the most important figures of literary during the Harlem Renaissance was Langston Hughes,(Swisher 1) he was a poet and a story writer. Amongst many works, the two poem Langston Hughes wrote called “Democracy” and “My people” received a lot of love and respect from people. James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902- May 22, 1967) was an American poet and a storywriter. He was born in Joplin, Missouri.
He started writing poetry when he started living with his mother around the age of 10 in Ohio. (Langston Hughes 1) His first poetry was “The negro speaks of rivers” which was published in The Crisis magazine. After dropping out of Columbia in 1922 he traveled around Europe and published more poems. When he came back to America, he met Vachel Lindsay a famous poet that helped promote Hughe’s poetry, which made him more known. Few years after that he not only wrote books and poems, but even plays and lyrics for a Broadway musical, he became the first poet to make a living by writing. Langston Hughes 2) Hughes died from prostate cancer, but not all of him died, he became an inspiration to others and still remains a historical figure of the Harlem Renaissance.
“Democracy” (1949) is a poem about Langston Hughes’s point of view of politics. He had the same views as an average black person living in Harlem. In this poem Hughes stresses the point of freedom as one of the most essential factor a person needs. The main conflict in this poem is that no freedom will come to them. Hughes wrote “Democracy will not come, Today, this year nor ever” This shows how black people were treated in order for hem to feel this hopeless about their freedom. Hughes also displayed how desperate he was with his freedom, he said “I have as much right as the other fellow has to stand On my two feet and own the land. ” He compares himself to other white people that are free. When he says this he is not representing himself only, but every single African American. The tone of this poem is hopeless. The poem is clear in it’s meaning and straightforward with the ideas, which allows people to picture how it is without freedom. Hughes uses a metaphor that helps the poem’s tone to stand out more.
He uses two metaphor, the first one is “I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread. ” When he says this, he means he cannot live unsure and needs the basic factor that all human beings have, food is the most basic necessity us human beings need in order to survive, one will not be able to survive when they rely on food that will be given to them tomorrow. When he says “Freedom is a strong seed” he emphasizes that one can only be free when everyone around them is not racist and supportive, and the idea that it will only flourish when the seed is strong enough for the outcome.
The tone of seriousness and a few metaphors in addition constructs the poem perfectly. There are two distinct themes in this poem, which is freedom and racism. The clarity of this poem makes it obvious for readers to know his point. He compares himself with others to highlight the fact that he wants equal treatment in his own country, and even uses metaphors to show what freedom means to him. On the other hand, the theme of racism is behind the poem, having knowledge about his biography; readers can clearly understand why Hughes felt this way. The second poem “My people” was written in 1923.
My people is a very short poem that not only expresses his affection for his people but it also has a message of equality. He tries to help people understand that there are a lot of different qualities to black people. “Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people” (Hughes 1923) By saying this Hughes is describing that his people are not cold, but are also warm like the sun. He also tells the readers that “Beautiful” can be used to describe a lot of things. In every stanza he has the word “Beautiful” and they each have a different meaning, for example The night is beautiful” can be describing that black is beautiful, which relates to his people being beautiful, or when he says the “Stars are beautiful” he means that white is beautiful. The tone of this poem is pride, Langston Hughes being one of the first writer for using his situation (not having rights in anything) as an inspiration. ( Butler 1) His inspiration then guided him to write a poem about his people with pride. He describes them with the nature’s elements and always has a “My” before people.
The imagery that is shown to the readers also helps shine the tone, everything being beautiful and so positive, we can tell that Langston Hughes was definitely a proud person who wasn’t ashamed of where he came from. Speaking positively about “his people” he conveys a lucid tone throughout this poem. The theme of this poetry is equality. It is obvious when a reader finishes reading the second stanza. Hughes uses metaphor in this poem to show the theme, the first stanza of this poem, he compares “the night” to the “faces of my people”, this portrays his thoughts about being black, it is beautiful to Hughes.
In the second stanza Hughes compares his people to the stars, this is the controversial stanza because stars are white but in the first stanza he mentioned that black is beautiful too. This just portrays perfectly that color or race didn’t matter, everyone was equal and individuals had bits of each other in themselves. The last stanza when he compares the sun to the souls of his people, he depicts how warm and bright his people are, not dark and evil. More over, if the author did not use any metaphors and was straight forward, it would depict the theme as well as it would have had.
This is a beautiful poem that doesn’t question anyone why Langston Hughes was so widely loved. In conclusion, one of the most prominent figures in literacy during the Harlem Renaissance was Langston Hughes, he was a great writer that wrote about various ideas and had a very unique way of thinking. (Butler 1) He is truly an inspiration not only to black people but to everyone, he teaches us that we can convert whatever we have in our mind to assemble a beautiful poetry about his people, or a hopeless poetry about his situation. Hughes still remains a legend in the literacy world and will never be forgotten.
Courtney from Study Moose
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