The Hero Speaks of Rivers Essay

Submitted By Red_Simone
Words: 932
Pages: 4

The Hero Speaks of Rivers: The Langston Hughes Effect Having just graduated from high school and on a train to Mexico to visit his father, Langston Hughes was inspired by the scenes unfolding before him… as well as the ones trailing behind him. Coming of age in America is what this culture is all about: youth, promise, possibility. Seeing as Hughes was an African American growing up in the time of severe racial discrimination, “coming of age” took on a whole new facet. Coming of age meant a coming to grips with the reality of what it means to be a Negro in America. Langston Hughes paints the picture of his roots; he brings to life the lineage of the Black man and charts the course of his plight. With a heavy emphasis on the power of water and its flow, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” sheds light on the indefatigable spirit that makes up African American history. He’s known rivers. He knows them because the river is what water his family tree and ensures its survival. He’s known rivers “ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” Many consider Africa to be the birthplace of the human race. Technically the first humans to walk this earth took that step in Africa. The first humans were African. Their spirit inhabited the area before they had even manifested; humans are made up of the rivers from which they were born. Seeing as the Euphrates is one of the most recognized, the longest and historically paramount, Hughes really gets his point across. The depth that the rivers represent speaks to the spirit of African Americans. Enduring and inherent, rivers are a vital life source. They point the way, they provide sanctuary and sustenance; rivers allow life, rivers represent possibility and promise. Rivers move, cleanse, create, and provide. Rivers have the propensity to change that which it comes in contact with. River rocks are constantly shaped and formed so that they may best cohabitate with the river. Given the tumultuous history that African Americans have endured, Hughes points out the conformation that has taken place because of currents of life. Likewise, Hughes was flowing with the currents of his life at the time as well. On a train to Mexico to see his father, Hughes penned this poem with a ferocious declaration. He affirms the African American people’s rightful place on this earth. He was also speaking to his venturing spirit as he trekked south to reunite with his father. Reconnecting with his roots brought him closer to the pursuits of his ancestors and confirmed his right to be here, as a Black man and as his father’s son. Hughes finds proof of the African American experience through the rivers that are the backdrop to their lives; Hughes also finds proof of his existence because of his father. If he can prove his father is real then he is closer to proving his own self is real. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” gathers its power from the fact that it speaks to a people and not a specific person. The roots of one Black man are the same as another Black man, and this isn’t a slight in the least. It is the experience of being Black… the single, solitary experience of being Black that allows this poem to take hold. A people judged and condemned because of the color of their skin. This poem speaks to their gypsy, unsettled spirit. It reminds them that they are a pertinent piece of the puzzle that makes up this world. In this one work of poetry Hughes touches upon the experiences of his people as a whole, all while speaking to each individually. Considering…