Analysis Of The Negro Speaks Of Rivers

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” written by Langston Hughes is a poem filled with historical significance in African heritage. Hughes narrates the poem linking those of African descent to ancient rivers. The poem holds significant examples of African heritage by the use of mentioning different rivers the Euphrates, Congo, Nile, and Mississippi River and Abraham Lincoln are all used in context to Africans journey to America, slavery, and all the stepping stones along the way.
Hughes wrote “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” in 1920 at the age of seventeen while on a train to visit his father in Mexico. “Hughes was a young man when he wrote this poem. He had not yet been to Africa, and what he presents in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is not so much a record
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The Euphrates is a river located in Western Asia. Some believe that the fist civilizations originated in this area. Hughes uses the Euphrates symbolizing that negroes have seen the rise of civilization. “I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep” (Hughes 237). The Congo River is located in central Africa and is the fifth largest river in the world. Hughes uses the Congo River to symbolize deep rooted African Culture and peaceful living. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it” (Hughes 237). This line is used to express slavery. It is believed that Egyptians had many slaves to build their grand pyramids. Hughes uses the Nile River to imply the very beginning of slavery. The Mississippi River is mentioned in line eight represents the history of blacks in the United States. The river is an important factor in African American history. The Mississippi River can be contemplated as a landmark symbolizing the beginning and ending of slavery. The following is a quote from Hughes himself reflecting on his visit to the Mississippi River “Now it was just sunset, and we crossed the Mississippi, slowly, over a long bridge. I looked out the window of the Pullman at the great muddy river flowing down toward the heart of the South, and I began to think what that river, the old Mississippi, had meant to Negroes in the past—how to be sold down the river was the worst fate that could overtake a slave in times of bondage” (Kelley 82). Ports along the river were used to import and sell slaves. Slaves also used the river to their advantage. It is said that more than 40,000 slaves utilized the river to escape. Abraham Lincoln is mentioned in the poem to symbolize the Emancipation Proclamation as slavery comes to an end. “I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans” (Hughes 237). Lincoln was a big role player in the eventual

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