"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and The Plight of African Americans

Essay by matthew133College, UndergraduateB+, April 2004

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"The Negro Speaks of Rivers"

And the Plight of African Americans

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers", by Langston Hughes, is a compelling poem that goes deep into Hughes' soul. This poem is full of many themes, such as racial pride and relating to one's ancestors or roots, which in this case is all tied to rivers. But what do these rivers convey about the history of the African People?

"The Negro Speaks of River" speaks loudly of the creativity of black people who have in essence have a rich history beginning from the dawn of civilization. When Hughes wrote the second line of his poem, "I've known rivers as ancient as the world," he wanted to show the readers that the different Negro societies were present since the first days of early civilization. The word "river" was used to symbolize the paths of each society and their geographical locations in the world.

Pay attention when Hughes mentioned the Euphrates, the Congo, the Nile, and the Mississippi. The names represent the different times in history and the geographical location of each society mentioned in the poem. For example, the Nile could be used as a metaphor for the ancient Egyptian empire. With all simplicity, the poem is a powerful message to the reader as well as a summary of the history of the Negro.

What makes this poem interesting to read? Simplification was the key to the poem's appeal. It contributed to the appeal of the title and the message the author wanted to convey to his readers. Hughes used his words and ideas carefully to elaborate his poem, but the way he simplified thousands of years of history in only ten lines of poetry was the most significant attribute to his work.

When reading this poem, the reader might notice...