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The Negro Speaks of Rivers Research Papers on Langston Hughes' Poem

The Negro Speaks of Rivers research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is a powerful poem, however brief it may be. One of the true hallmarks of poetry is the ability of a single poem to have multiple meanings. It is not always what the poet has written for us, but what we take away from the poem. In such a cases, Hughes’ work is replete with meaning both for the poet and the reader.


Unique Elements to Cover Regarding The Negro Speaks Rivers

  • "The Negro Speaks of Rivers” follows no rhyme scheme. This does not in anyway detract from its effectiveness. Indeed, reliance on rhyme can often be a crutch for poets.
  • Hughes allows the imagery to convey his message.
  • “The Negro” of the title does not mean exclusively the poet.

The word “Negro” is both the singular and plural form, and interestingly, Hughes is using the word in both forms. Hughes’ use of “I” in the first stanza can be seen as individual. “I’ve known rivers”. Indeed, what individual is not familiar with rivers? Hughes can be seen, perhaps sitting on the bank of a river, watching the water flow past, and remarking on their ancient nature.

However, in the third stanza, Hughes is using the same form of “I” to become the Negro plural. “I bathed in the Euphrates…”. Other famous rivers, the Congo, the Nile and the Mississippi, that play a significant role in the history of African-Americans are mentioned, and Hughes is using the I to become all Negroes. Instead of just one man, we can see an entire race of people standing on the bank of an ancient river, watching history pass.

In this sense, the river(s) become a metaphor for the sad history of the African-American race. We see the poet/Negro race standing proudly, looking at its achievements by the Euphrates, the Congo and the Nile, and then we know what the singing alongside the Mississippi is: the song of slaves. But Hughes is hopeful, Abe Lincoln has gone down to New Orleans, and slavery is over. One familiar with Lincoln’s biography will know that Lincoln took a flatboat from Illinois to New Orleans as a young man, and saw the horrors of slavery firsthand. As President, Abraham Lincoln’s armies sought control of the entire Mississippi river to cut the Confederacy in two, and strangle the home of slavery. The muddy bosom of the Mississippi is golden with potential for the future.

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