The book with the selected poems of Langston Hughes contains the chapter “Afro-American Fragments”. The chapter is illustrated as a multitude of poems describing the black experience at the time the poet was publishing his work, hence, in the 1930s. The narrator’s personal approach to expressing raw emotions and perception creates a deeply sentimental yet realistic and genuine atmosphere of sorrow combined with grace and beauty. On the one hand, the author praises blackness for its culture, history, and emotionally charged background that created a resilient and graceful community. On the other hand, the narrator acknowledges that blackness, while beautiful, is not considered as such by other people. Each poem is an ode to African-American culture and an illustration of the pain and suffering of the regular people whose history has scarred them and left an imprint on the next generations.
As mentioned prior, the chapter contains multiple poems in which the poet describes blackness as beautiful. Namely, the verse “Beautiful are the souls of my people” is an illustration of the perception of the African American culture as alluring and delightful (Hughes 26). However, the said conclusion is highlighted through the portrayal of the elements that make said culture beautiful. Namely, the author often reflects on the history that has shaped African Americans. For example, the author describes himself by saying, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers” (Hughes 16). The verse relates to the background of the people, their roots, and their ancestors. A long history of existence facilitates a rich heritage, which the author highlights as one of the elements which make blackness a unique and special feature.
However, history has had both negative and positive circumstances, which the narrator mentions. For example, the poem “Aunt Sue’s Stories” relates to the stories told by Aunt Sue to a young boy who learns about slavery from the real-life experiences recalled by Sue (Hughes 18). The authors highlight that African Americans grow with an understanding of such stories passed down from ancestors to the younger generation. This metaphor is a reflection of how the echo of slavery still exists and impacts the black community. Moreover, by including the said poem, the poet relates to the element of trauma that scars yet generates resilience and strength among the group affected by it.
The chapter and the poems included in it directly or indirectly aligns with such concepts as liberty and freedom. For example, the poet describes himself as the “rock on which freedom stumps its toe (Hughes 21). By revealing the struggles, pain, and discrimination faced by regular people, the author raises awareness that not all individuals are free and that racism still facilitates a lack of liberty and individuality that can be openly expressed. Thus, the juxtaposition between the beauty of the black community and the societal denial to acknowledge said beauty generates an understanding of the grim and complex world related to Hugh’s poems.
The chapter and the book can be applied to the academic curriculum of literature students. The author has remained truthful to his heritage and has become an individual by relating to the struggles of regular people. Students who examine said book can realize the importance of individuality in arts. Moreover, they can learn about African-American poetry, a segment that is often dismissed. However, Hughes’s works are both authentic, realistic, and relevant despite the time that has passed between their publishing and today.
In my personal opinion, Hughes can create something timeless. The poems fascinated me with the fact that multiple of the experiences illustrated in the aforementioned chapter is often talked about nowadays. Thus, the poet has uncovered a deep scar that remains unhealed despite the poems being written before the Civil Rights movement.
Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. Vintage Books, 1990.