Rising Above the Hatred in Langston Hughes: .
Sometimes near the water something stirs within my soul and a feeling of serenity settles over me. Over eighty years ago, a majestic American River similarly inspired a young writer. That writer was Langston Hughes, and the poem inspired by his journey is titled "A Negro Speaks of Rivers." Although the times dictated racial discrimination, Langston Hughes masterfully instilled a growing sense of pride for his race by claiming that Negroes had been instrumental in civilizations all through history, and therefore could transcend those inequalities that ruled the times they lived in. .
The year was 1921 and Hughes "often expressed his views on the frustrations of blacks" ("Hughes" 263) in the United States. Hughes penned his now famous poem at a time when segregation ruled the land, a time when racism prevailed, and Negroes were assigned to back seats and treated like second class citizens. Hughes was attempting to show the black man as human during a time when others saw them as less than human. Without ever speaking the words, Hughes sends a message that speaks volumes about the treatment of Negroes in this country. His style of writing evokes strong images that trace the longevity and significant history of Negroes from Africa to America. .
In "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," Hughes uses four major rivers as a metaphor that refers to his race and the collective souls of all Negroes. The lyrical poem containing thirteen lines and five stanzas is a small masterpiece of rhythm and relies on alliteration. Hughes focuses on the role of Negroes in the shaping of civilization dating back to biblical times when the "dawns were young" (Line 5). The world's earliest civilizations were found among the fertile soil of the Euphrates, the Congo, and the Nile rivers. Together these three rivers symbolize the ancient history of the Negro race at a time when they were free.