Langston Hughes As Social Person

Langston Hughes is considered by many readers to be the most significant black
poet of the twentieth century. He is described as і...the beloved author
of poems steeped in the richness of African American culture, poems that exude

Hughes№s affection for black Americans across all divisions of region,
class, and gender.І (Rampersad 3) His writing was both depressing and
uplifting at times. His poetry, spanning five decades from 1926 to 1967,
reflected the changing black experience in America, from the Harlem Renaissance
to the turbulent sixties. At the beginning of his career, he was surrounded by
the Harlem Renaissance. New York City in the 1920№s was a place of immense
growth and richness in African-American culture and art. For Hughes, this was
the perfect opportunity to establish his poems. His early work reflects the
happy times of the era. However, as time progressed he became increasingly
bitter and upset over race relations. Except for a few examples, all his poems
from this later period spoke about social injustice in America. The somber tone
of his writing often reflected his mood. Race relations was the shadow of his
career, following him from his first poem to his last. The tone and subject
matter of Hughes№s poetry can be linked to certain points in history, and
his life. The youth of Hughes is brought out by his poem іHarlem Night

ClubІ, a piece which describes living in the moment. Often children do not
consider the consequences of their actions; they act on instinct and desire.

Hughes might have been 27 when he wrote this poem, but the feisty, upbeat tempo
of a school boy is present in his style. іHarlem Night ClubІ is
unique in that it describes the integration of blacks and whites in an
optimistic tone. The vigor and spirit of his youth is reflected in the energy of
the writing, іJazz-band, jazz-band,­ / Play, plAY, PLAY! /

Tomorrow....who knows? / Dance today!І The repetition of the words, and
the increasing emphasis on the word іplayІ bring out the excitement
to the reader. More evidence of Hughes№s youth comes from the very focus
of the poem: the interracial couples. The entire poem can be summed up as
і...a single-glance tableau of interracial flirtation against a background
of heady jazz.І (Emanuel 120) This festive relationship between the two
sexes can rarely be seen in any of Hughes№s later poems. At this point in
his life, Hughes was enjoying the culture and excitement of the Harlem
renaissance. It was an amazing period in New York for African Americans, the
first real large scale expression of their culture. Jazz was a flourishing art
form that Hughes often liked to write about. It is easy to see why most of his
poems of this period (1921-1930) would be festive and cheerful. Unfortunately,
the party didn№t last into the next decade and the country fell into a
deep depression. The period between 1931 and 1940 was a dark period for Hughes,
and for African-Americans in general. On top of the financial difficulties the
depression brought, widespread racism re-surfaced in the North. The celebration
in Harlem was replaced by angry whites who were anxious to put blame on someone
for their troubles. іWhite ManІ is a direct attack on the white
man№s violations against the African-Americans. Like the earlier poem
іHarlem Night Club,І it is a fast-paced, dynamic piece. However, its
tone reflects pure anger and frustration. іWhite Man! White Man! / Let

Louis Armstrong play it­ / And you copyright it / And make the money. /

You№re the smart guy, White Man! / You got everything!І Its
intensity makes the reader frantic just from reading it. The line about Louis

Armstrong refers to the great jazz trumpet player, the first black man to be
recognized as a successful jazz artist by a white audience. Only now, ten years
later, we see that it is the whites who profit from his talent. Hughes is
desperate not to forget the accomplishments of the 20№s, and not to let
those accomplishments get taken away by greedy white businessmen. Another attack
on the white world comes in his piece іBallad of RooseveltІ.

Roosevelt is thought of as one of the country№s greatest leaders, a
wonderful humanitarian. But in this poem Hughes reminds us that he did not
always come through with his promises. The poem is written in rhyme and has a
flowing, nursery-rhyme feel. There is a chorus of three lines that repeats after
every stanza. In each verse, Hughes states a problem such as lack of food, lack
of medical attention,