Today is February first. Not only does today mark the beginning of Black History Month, it’s the birthday of one of America’s celebrated writers: Langston Hughes.
Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. Hughes first started writing poetry while living with his grandmother in Lincoln, Illinois and published his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, in 1926. His first novel, Not Without Laughter, was published in 1930. Hughes is known for his portrayals of life as an African American. His writing, as well as his life, helped to shape the Harlem Renaissance. Possibly his most famous work is the poem Dream Deferred, which is what I’d like to share with you today. The poem talks about the “American dream” as it applied to blacks living in America during the 1920’s through the 1960’s. Even though the imagery is gore-y and gruesome, I still claim this poem as one of my favorites from Hughes’ works.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I’d also like to share a poem of his called I, Too. The lyrical nature of this poem is absolutely beautiful, and the message is so empowering. I remember reading this poem aloud, as a class, in high school. Like the last, this poem also speaks about life for blacks in America in the ’20s and ’60s.
Spotify also has a playlist of Hughes reading his poetry, which I’d really recommend. Nothing quite beats hearing a poet read their own work! You can find the playlist by clicking the link HERE.