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Portrayals of African-Americans in the Poetry Of Langston Hughes

Author Langston Hughes vividly shows how the African-Americans struggle and manage to live as from “Slaves” to “Negro”. He also sings for the ways to try standing up as “owner” of America. The beautiful efforts they take away from their faces and the ways to protect and try to change their positions are very evident in the three poems, “Mother To Son”, “Negro”, and “Jazzonia. ” In his poem, “Mother To Son”, the author told the story of how the African-Americans struggled to survive the harsh realities of living in a society dominated by the white people.

He starts the poem using a conversational tone: “Well, son, I’ll tell you. (261)”, which easily showed its viewers that he was talking to somebody. The poem is also told from a mother’s point of view. From the poem, it can be perceived that the mother was a slave at the white house, serving white people. The reader is given contrasting images of how the African-Americans suffered, while the white and rich Americans ruled over society. The author uses a lot of metaphors in the poem to illustrate his points. The “crystal stair (261)” mentioned in the poem, contains several meanings.

The crystal may be considered to be attractive, but very fragile. The use of the crystal in the poem is somehow successful in connecting a creative story with that of reality-as a symbol for the way of living rich white people have. So, it cannot happen to African-Americans. Therefore, mother says: “Life for me ain’t been a crystal stair” (261). After this, she tries to show that the uneven treatment given to both races. He also repeats transitional words -“And” to emphasize the hardships endured: “And splinters/And boards torn up, / And places with no carpet on floor- Bare (261)”.

Moreover, the diction “Bare (261),” can be imagined the person who does not wear clothes so he seems to be tortured and ashamed. In his other poem “Negro (262)”, he demonstrates the history of African Americans while supplying the reader significant meaning. The poem’s tense is dynamic, shifting as the poem progresses. The author starts the poem according to the present tense. The poem wanted to communicate that an African American is viciously regarded as “Negro”, as if one is not a real member of the American society.

The poem also argues that all Americans, regardless of color, are equal under American law. However, there are still White people who do not accept African-Americans as fellow citizens. He had also included the history of the issue at hand. He mentions that African Americans were insensitively called as “slave”, “worker”, “singer”, and ultimately, “victims” of the White people. The term “Caesar (262)” is also infused within the poem. The term refers to a “controller” endowed with political and economic power over the African Americans.

Consequently, the African Americans were forced to work for these political and economical controllers. The poem tells us that since the African Americans were treated harshly, it is just understandable that they are hurting inside. We could generally agree to the interpretation that African Americans were under the control of White people. The author tells us that “Black as the night is black / Black like the depths of my Africa (262). ” These lines are obviously repeated two times at the first and the end of the poem for the purpose of putting emphasis on their hard history, present, and forthcoming future.

He probably wants to suggest that we will always be “Negro” in the White peoples’ eyes, but we could still enlarge our skills and intelligence within the White-dominated society. Just like the relationship of night and day, we are the night, which gives way to day. We have to ask the question: should we accept that prevalent negative thinking? Should they dictate the way we should live our lives? He also thinks that most important history achieve in the night. Night is good to prepare and practice for the changing the positions and to easily hide their goals.

Moreover, like as we cannot measure the beautiful of nature, the white people do not judge the depths of Black people’s ability. According to tone, he is proud of himself: “I am a Negro. ” In his inner mind, African-American should identify them and need to be proud themselves because although they were under control, we are still “Negro” but, finally, we will get the owner ship. The last poem I mentioned, “Jazzonia (261)” tries to show the way to overcome hard reality in white society. In other words, it is another piece of literature that shows how the American society refuses to wholeheartedly accept African Americans as fellow citizens.

It is just ironic that White people accepts songs from the African American culture. The very likely message of the author could be to formulate new ways to stand against the problem of racism. The author wants to argue that we should fight for equality, but never in violent ways. The poem presents to us a peaceful option that is also intrinsically and uniquely ours: Jazz music. This particular music is a genre that makes people of all races feels happy. That is because Jazz is made up of beautiful melodies and rhythms that everybody, regardless of color, age, religion, could appreciate.

The author could be arguing that since White people are singing the song of Jazz, they are experiencing a product of the African-American culture. And as long as both African American and White people are jamming to the same beat, the result would be a unified culture, without boundaries set by discrimination. Within the poem, the line that is repeatedly mentioned was “Oh silver tree! /Oh shining rivers of the soul (261). ” Again, the repetition of some lines would be the author’s way of emphasizing an idea. Those lines could be considered as symbols.

“Oh silver tree” is referring to the White people, and “oh shining rivers of the soul” is referring to African Americans. The poem had painted an image wherein both African-American and White people are living in perfect harmony. That very agreeable harmony was made possible by the popularity of Jazz music. Jazz is a musical genre that had had unified people of different races. The poem would simply want to tell us that just like the product of our culture, Jazz, we could be naturally and wholeheartedly accepted in the society.

Back to first poem “Mother To Son”, he concludes the poem with “So boy, don’t you turn back. / Don’t you set down on the steps/ Cause you finds it’s kinds hard. Don’t fall down now-(262)”. Like this, his hoping voice and energetic tone is still constructive. Langston Hushes is one of person who have positive power to grow up himself and encourage the Africa Americans who do not want know “who was I”, to accept identification and know the history about the target for hurtful acts of discrimination.

Finally, he would just want remind us that we should never lose our uniqueness as African-Americans culture. This is the ways to stand up as American. And in this struggle for a genuine acceptance by the society, we should never sacrifice our cultural identity.

Work Cited

Hughes, Langston. “Mother to Son”, “Negro”, “Jazzonia”. The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. Ed. David Levering Lewis. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. p. 261-262

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