The Negro Speaks of Rivers by (Langston Hughes)

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In this poem, 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers', the poet, Langston Hughes uses a voice that speaks for all people of his race, defining the history, heritage and civilization of all Black people of African origin or descent. He takes the four great rivers that have long been connected to the development of human civilization and links them to the African American, or Negro experience.


7) and who "heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans," (l. 8) represents all Black people. Their presence and contributions to the development of civilization is ancient and timeless, like the rivers.
I found this poem to be powerful and moving, and it made me feel joyous and uplifted, yet humbled by what it portrayed. I felt that Hughes was rightfully proud of his race, that he understood the importance of his ancestors and that for him, history was a testament to the strength of his people. The opening line "I've known rivers", is so simple, but when repeated and added to in the words that follow, gathers and sends a powerful message. Rivers are the lifeblood of the planet, and he links that idea to humanity with "flow of blood in human veins" (l. 3). By joining body and soul: "My soul has grown deep like the rivers" ( l. 5 and 13), he expressed the truth about all of us. We are all body and soul. But he is stating that the Black soul has withstood much and held fast to wisdom and strength. With the repetition of the words "I've known rivers/Ancient, dusky rivers, (l. 11-12) he brings to life the dark skin of his people and there is pride in the depth of his and their souls at the end of the poem. ...
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