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D2Pyo - Pyo 1 Sunghyun Pyo English 2 Professor Schamp 18...

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Pyo 1 Sunghyun Pyo English 2 Professor Schamp 18 May 2011 African American Identity Depicted in Langston Hughes’ Poems African Americans in the 20 th century experienced dramatic social changes. Although the slavery was officially rescinded in the mid-19 th century, they still suffered from social discriminations in every part of their lives including educations, public policies and even transportations. As a result, they started appealing their voices against the majority in the 20 th century. They developed their own culture such as jazz or hip hop, and activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X politically represented their rights. In literatures as well, there was a writer who represented African Americans: Langston Hughes. Born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902, Hughes himself was mixed race. Inspired by the racial conflicts from his own identity, Hughes became “one of the most prominent and influential of the Harlem Renaissance writers” and innovators of Jazz Poetry (DiYanni 989). In Langston Hughes’ poems, African Americans are illustrated that although they have a magnificent heritage, they currently suffer, but have a strong identity filled with hope and dream for a better future. In his poems, Langston Hughes illustrated the great heritage which rooted and inspired African Americans. Among many poems of Hughes’, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” most deliberately demonstrated African Americans’ heritage. Using various symbols, Hughes illustrated the history and root of African American people through the names of rivers such as
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Pyo 2 Euphrates, Nile, of Mississippi. Since rivers continuously flow, “rivers” in the poem symbolize continuing history and heritage of African Americans. In addition, the narrator, “I,” does not mean the author himself, but represents the entire race as “I” existed in all those historical moments shown in the poem. Furthermore, by reiterating “I’ve known rivers” in the beginning
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