Americans in the early 20th century have been through a series of pivotal events that has affected the country greatly such as the Women Suffrage Movement, The Depression, and two World Wars. However, in my opinion the Harlem Renaissance is the most critical moment in our nation’s history especially for African-Americans. The Harlem Renaissance is during the 1920s and 30s when in the upper Manhattan district of Harlem had become the flourishing capital of African-American culture as writers, musicians, artists, photographers, philosophers, and intellectuals created works that probed the black American heritage with a psychological intensity and fierce pride. African Americans such as Countee Cullen, Angelina W. Grimke, James Weldon Johnson and much more have been remembered for their writings during the Harlem Renaissance as well as Langston Hughes, who was known as the “king of the Harlem Renaissance.” James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1,1902 to a lawyer and a teacher. Hughes did not live a normal childhood; his parents were divorced and he was forced to move from town to town living with relatives. As a child Hughes had taken up an interest in writing poetry. His career as a poet began, rather abruptly in the spring of 1916 when he was voted class poet even though he had never written a poem. However, he written six poems for graduation and began taken an interest in writing from then on. Hughes wrote novels, plays, short stories, essays, but he was most known for his poetry. The realities of the black experiences and the possibilities of hope and advancement were constantly present in his poetry. He displayed his message in various ways, one in particularly through a mother’s point of view, which is shown in “Mother to Son” and “The Negro Mother.”
... the 1920 s and 1930 s an African American movement occurred in Harlem, New York City. The Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African-Americans ... promoted racial equality and celebrated the African American culture. It was in Lincoln, Illinois that Hughes started to write his poetry. In November 1924, ...
Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son” is written entirely from a mother’s viewpoint. I found this interesting because most poets usually write in their outlook. The title implies that the poem is written or spoken from mother to son. “Mother to Son takes the form of a dramatic monologue; that is, a poem spoken in a imagined speaker in this case, a mother to her son. The son has either asked his mother a question or complained of his frustrations.”(Wasley) I agree with this because the poem starts out like a conversation “Well son.” The metaphor of the crystal stair may represent “the dreams that the mother once held but which she has learned no longer to expect.” (Miller) However, I think the crystal stairs may symbolize a materialistic life of the rich. Hughes includes such realistic details to make the metaphor of a stairway literal and symbolic at the same time. Hughes includes details that appeal to the reader’s vision, hearing, and touch otherwise known as sensory details. The tacks and the splinters may literally mean the stairs they walked on because the live in a poor house or it can symbolically mean the life she has experienced as being complicated.
The last few lines urge the son to keep on going, (“so boy don’t turn your back, Don’t you set down on those steps”) despite the setbacks in his life. The mother also says, “I’se still climbin’” which indicates that she is a strong woman. “For a women of such determination to be kept this poor indicates that hardship is not a moral issue, but is related to an external cause, such as the limits that are put on people because of their race.”(Poetry for Students, 3, 180) I agree with this statement because during those times African-Americans faced much discrimination. The mother affirms the value of persistence and faith in one’s goal. Despite the obstacles she has continued to make gains “And reaching’ landin’s, and turnin’ corners.” Hughes decides to take the role of the mother instead of a father for many reasons. For example “Hughes female speaker represent original models, of human endurance. In this poem, the woman also represents the continuation of the race. (Miller) I believe he chose a mother to advise her son because he in his own lifetime was much closer to his mother also because mothers usually give their sons advice about hardships in life while fathers expect their sons to know.
Jim Crow: the System of Segregation in the South Jim Crow: the systematic practice of promoting the segregation of the Negro peoples; favoring or promoting the segregation of Negroes. Segregation: the policy or practice of imposing the social segregation of races, as in schools, housing, and industry especially discriminating practices against nonwhites in a predominantly white society. The Jim ...
One of his less famous poems is titled “The Negro Mother.” In this poem he extols the black woman as the hope of the black community. He states that the whites sold their black mother three hundred years ago from Africa. He goes on to say that she, the Negro mother, is the one who worked in their fields, whom they mistreated, and whose children and husband they sold. Yet she remains nourishing to her children through her hard work and her dreams for them. The Negro mother in this poem tries to remind young black people about the suffering that their ancestors endured and I believe that the mother or Hughes rather is using this to remind black children that they have come a long, difficult way. He encourages the African-Americans to keep on going up “these great stairs,” and never give up or their nation will die. In my opinion The Negro mother is actually leading the black youth to freedom. Instead of just advising black youths and the mother representing African-Americans as a whole like Wasley suggested “ The Negro Mother comes to be seen not simply as an old woman talking to her children but as, in some sense, the voice of African-American history itself, recounting its arduous struggle ‘that the race might live and grow’.” (Wasley) I think that Hughes is speaking for all black mothers and that each one will be there to physically and spiritually help their children “through my dreams and my prayers.” The Negro mother suggests that her struggles will make those of her children easier to bear and she can finally realize her dreams through her children.
a) Compare the ways in which these two poems deal with the experience of oppression and racism. b) State which of the two poems you find more disturbing, and give reasons to support your answer. c) Identify and comment on TWO poetic devices used in each poem to highlight the workings of oppression or racism. “Dreaming Black Boy” and “Epitaph” are two poems which address the ...
“The Negro Mother” was written some years after “Mother to Son” and they share similar themes and style. “In “Mother to Son” and “Negro Mother,” we find similar speakers in a similar dramatic situation, as the title character addresses her African-American sons and daughters in “The Negro Mother”: Children, I come back today To tell you a story of the long dark way That I had to climb, that I had to know In order that the race might live and grow.” (Wasley) I agree with Wasley because both poems have a mother speaker and a children audience and the both open up that way such as in “Mother to Son,” “Well, son, I’ll tell you.” Both poems mention the “dark” and difficult “climb up the stairs” that the mother has faced and what the children will go through. In my opinion I believe that both poems display the advice Hughes mother must have told him because she has also lived a difficult life with constantly traveling and divorces. Both poems also have similar dialect such as “white brother” and “I’se still climbin’.” The poems also allows the audience know what the mother has been through and each mother has had a ruff life.
Langston Hughes is described as a gentle and mild-mannered soul who spent much of his life in the center of controversy, and his private life alone. He devoted his poems to the expression of the lives of the hopes, fears and angers of the ordinary black people. He generally wrote to encourage the African-American society, but he also wanted to open up the eyes of other races. He wanted to show the importance of change and the influence that he felt his culture was having on the change occurring at the time. His poems were a reflection of what he experienced as an African-American in racially prejudiced society. He displayed his message through his own or his peoples’ point of view but the most unique way I thought he got his message through was through his mother. In “Mother to Son” and “The Negro Mother,” he tried to advise the black community to never give up. This is most likely an advice his mother told him. These two poems show the rest of society how African-Americans struggled in that era. Due to these inspirational poems the blacks were able to overcome the discrimination they faced.
An Explication of Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son” Langston Hughes once stated in his own words that his whole purpose for writing was, “to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America.” In the poem “Mother to Son”, he denotes his belief on racism in America. In “Mother to Son”, a mother is giving advice to her son about life from her ...
Works Cited Page
“The poetry of Hughes – African American Literature.” Masterplots Complete 2000. CD-ROM. Gale, 2000
“The world’s best poetry online.” Mother to Son. Ruth publishing Incorporation 2001: 3 page online. Internet
“Mother To Son” and “Negro Mother.” Poetry for Students. 3 vols.
Richards, I. A. Literary Criticism. New York: A Harvest Book, 1985