Langston Hughes: Spokesman for Civil Rights Essay

The purpose of this essay is to examine the theme of three Langston Hughes poems; “I. Too,” “Mother to Son,” and “Theme for English B. ” The theme of these three essays is civil rights. Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902. His parents separated early in his life, he lived with his mother in Kansas City. Langston Hughes attended High School where as a senior he wrote, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers. ” Langston became a Merchant Seaman in 1923 and visited Ports of West Africa. He lived for a time in Paris, Genoa, and Rome but returned to the United States after some time.

In 1903 He became involved in radical politics, but after WW11 he shifted to mainstream progressive politics. Langston became a spokesman for the Civil Rights movement; He died in Harlem in 1967. In all three of these poems Langston Hughes used the word “I” but they were all used describing different people. In “I, Too,” Langston writes, “I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother” (976), He is referring to all “dark” people not just himself, he’s talking to the people in America, white and black.

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In “Mother to Son,” Hughes writes, “Well, son, I’ll tell you” (975), Hughes is clearly writing this poem from the position of a Mother talking to her Son. And in “Theme for English B,” As Langston Hughes writes, “I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem” (980) he is writing as if it is him, he is writing about. All of these poems have one theme in common and that is the treatment of the “Colored” (980) in the early 1900’s. In “Theme for English B,” we see a young college student that is asked to write a page for his English class, he makes a point to say that this was the third college he attended, also that he lives in Harlem.

The college student states he likes the same things “Folks of other races do”(980), but doesn’t really know if the teacher will look at his paper the same as he looks at the papers of the other students because he is the only “Colored student at the college”(980), yet he believes because they are both Americans they are part of each other even though neither of them may not want to be at times, but maybe they can learn from each other, and both be somewhat more free.

In “I, Too,” The writer is talking about all the “darker brother” servants (976), like in “Theme for English B,” the writer talks about not being treated like “Folks from other Races” (Theme for English B p. 980). When company comes, the writer has to eat in the kitchen away from the visitors, but this does not keep him from being happy, he laughs, eats well and talks about growing strong, like the mother in “Mother to Son” who encourages her son, not to turn back because you find things hard (976). “I, Too” and “Theme for English B,” are also patriotic poems.

Langston Hughes clearly loved America, In “I, Too,” the writer says, “Tomorrow I’ll eat at the table, I’ll be at the table when company comes, and nobody will care” (976), “I, too, am American”(977). And in “Theme for English B,” Langston also ends the Poem, saying how we are all part of each other because, “That’s American” (980). “Mother to Son,” does not talk about Being American like the other two poems, it is a mother talking to her son, telling him about the poverty she went through, she describes her life being full of hardships all the time.

But like the other two poems there are encouraging statements like the mother telling her son, “I’ve been a-climbin’ on, and reachin’ landin’s”(975). She tells her son that at times she couldn’t see the end to troubles, “So boy, don’t you turn back” (976). This poem does not talk about being treated differently from “Folks from other races” (Theme for English B p. 980) like the other two poems do, but like the other two poems it does describe the signs of the times of the early 1920’s. Langston Hughes sought hard for the civil rights for all African-Americans of his day.

Being born in poverty he could relate to the people he wrote about in the poems. The reader believed Langston Hughes knew the mother in “Mother to Son,” and the college student in “Theme for English B,” And the servant in “I, Too,” They were Him; they were all African Americans that had to endure the early 1920’s. In each of these poems were hopes for a better tomorrow, despite life’s hardship’s living as a “colored person” (980), Langston Hughes loved America and that was evident in the endings of “I, Too” and “Theme for English B. The poems of Langston Hughes will live forever as part of American Civil Rights Poetry. Mr. Bush I really didn’t know how to use citations so I hope these are right. This essay was a lot more fun for me to write than the other one, I guess not living in Mississippi very long and seeing the racial divide that still exists here really gets to me at times, I saw a lot in these poems and I wish other people could too. Mississippi has a long way to go, I’m sure if Langston Hughes were here today his words would make a big impact. As for me I’m a California girl through and through. Thanks for all your help.

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