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3 Poems to Celebrate Langston Hughes’ Birthday

Langston Hughes was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance and his poetry and fiction explored black life in America. From the 20s to the 60s, Hughes contributed a plethora of work that combined his personal experiences with the common experiences of black America. Today would have been his 115th birthday. Here are 3 poems from Hughes to celebrate his life and word.

1)  “I, Too”

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

 

2) “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

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.  

 

3) “Democracy”

 

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right 
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet 
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say, 
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Freedom
Is a strong seed
Planted
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom

Just as you.  

 

 

 

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