The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

Literature & Life

13-06-2022 • 4 mins

Langston Hughes wrote "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" when he was 17 years old in 1920. It is often thought to be his first "mature" poem. He wrote this poem on the train journey to see his father. When he crossed over the Mississippi River, he got the idea to write this poem. He had trouble getting along with his father, who was black and didn't like other black people. People say he wrote the poem on the back of an envelope which his father gave him. It came out in 1921 in a magazine called The Crisis that many African Americans read. At Hughes's funeral in 1967, this same poem was read out loud. It's written in free verse, but it has rhythm for sure.

Hughes became a well-known leader of the Harlem Renaissance because of how well this poem did.

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