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Best Poetry By Langston Hughes

poetry langston hughes

WHO WAS LANGSTON HUGHES?

Langston Hughes was the chronicler of African American life in Harlem, New York City, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Hughes set out to portray the stories of African-American life that represented their actual culture—including the piercing heartbreak and the joy of everyday life in Harlem.

Hughes listed Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his poetic influences, but the influence of jazz also found its way into Hughes’s work.

Hughes’s recurring images and his innovative phrasing helped shape the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s: that time of tremendous creativity when African American arts flourished with Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston, among others.

After his death in 1967 from cancer, the home of Langston Hughes, located at 20 East 127th Street, was given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street goes by the name of “Langston Hughes Place.”

THE BEST LANGSTON HUGHES POEMS

My People The night is beautiful, So the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful, So the eyes of my people. Beautiful, also, is the sun. Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.   

Kids Who Die This is for the kids who die, Black and white, For kids will die certainly. The old and rich will live on awhile, As  Always, Eating blood and gold, Letting kids die. Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi Organizing sharecroppers Kids will die in the streets of Chicago Organizing workers Kids will die in the orange groves of California Telling others to get together Whites and Filipinos, Negroes and Mexicans, All kinds of kids will die Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment And a lousy peace.  

 Suicide’s Note The calm, Cool face of the river Asked me for a kiss.   When Sue Wears Red When Susanna Jones wears red Her face is like an ancient cameo Turned brown by the ages. Come with a blast of trumpets, Jesus! When Susanna Jones wears red A queen from some time-dead Egyptian night Walks once again. Blow trumpets, Jesus! And the beauty of Susanna Jones in red Burns in my heart a love-fire sharp like pain. Sweet silver trumpets, Jesus!   Dreams Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.

  Evil Looks like what drives me crazy Don’t have no effects on you— But I’m gonna keep on at it Till it drives you crazy, too.   American Heartbreak I am the American heartbreak— Rock on which Freedom Stumps its toe— The great mistake That Jamestown Made long ago.   Harlem What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? [randomcontent] The Negro Speaks of Rivers(To W.E.B. DuBois) I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.   Theme for English B The instructor said, Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you— Then, it will be true. I wonder if it’s that simple? I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem. I went to school there, then Durham, then here to this college on the hill above Harlem. I am the only colored student in my class. The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem, through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y, the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator up to my room, sit down, and write this page: It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you: hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.

(I hear New York, too.) Me—who? Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.

I like to work, read, learn, and understand life. I like a pipe for a Christmas present, or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach. I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races. So will my page be colored that I write? Being me, it will not be white. But it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white— yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. That’s American. Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. Nor do I often want to be a part of you. But we are, that’s true! As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me— although you’re older—and white— and somewhat more free. This is my page for English B.  

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