Cultural Identity In Langston Hughes The Negro Speaks Of Rivers

Decent Essays
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes compares the history and the soul of black communities to four great rivers around the world. The poem takes the reader on a historical journey through different places and times. It links black history with the birth of civilization and the creation of the world: “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” Hughes conception of the black experience and rich ancient existence in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” can be analyzed through Stuart Hall’s second definition of cultural identity presented in his essay “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”. Stuart Hall defines cultural identity in two ways. The first is an essentialist identity, which focuses on the …show more content…
The “I” and the term “the Negro” in the title serve as the collective voice of the people. Hall would define the “I” as the portrayal of black people having only one shared culture and experience, a ‘oneness’ that is “the essence of the black experience”(Hall). The rivers in the poem then represent a deep shared history and culture that is essentially the same, but like the great rivers of the world, this history is vast, always moving and transforming. This ability to move and transform relates to Hall’s second view of cultural identity, which he describes as not “an essence but a positioning”. He believes that cultural identity is more than a shared experienced rooted in the past, it also changes depending on the position, whether it’s within or outside of the culture or a different geographical region. Hughes is able to demonstrate cultural positioning by connecting black communities and experiences to four different regions, the Middle East, North and Central Africa and the Americas, thus describing aspects of the African

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    African Diaspora Analysis

    • 943 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Understanding the differences in culture supports that notion of organizing together the experiences of the African-descended with the experiences of those from the African Diaspora and Black Atlantic. Memory venerates past experiences and history of similarities and differences in the cultures of the different people of the African Diaspora, which plays a central role in constituting diasporic culture and…

    • 943 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    “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.…

    • 791 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Redefining Blackness

    • 1486 Words
    • 6 Pages

    The study of epigenetics can greatly contribute to redefining ‘blackness’ and grafting a greater understanding of the history of the African descended peoples. Epigenetics is the study of genotypes and coded genotypic messages that have been influenced by external and environmental factors. Epigenetics has the power to map out the movement of African descended peoples, and also uncover the overlooked consequences of colonialism, enslavement, and white supremacy on them and their descendants. This can help add to the history of the movement of African people, to understanding the shared history of the African diaspora, and it can further connections within the African diaspora. Genetic data can also track and find African-descended peoples ancestors’ ethnic origins through comparisons of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).…

    • 1486 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The focus of the poem is a relationship between major rivers and African American in America; they are long and broad in comparison. The central conflict is the legacy of American Americans versus discrimination that they experienced. The poem is in the first person “I,” but means all African American as a whole race. In order to express Hughes’s genuine emotions the poem written in free verse with no set meter or rhyme arrangement. Similarly, the poem contains allusion, repetition, metaphors, and personification.…

    • 1125 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    So, the rivers are older it seems than any race, and yet they’re also an image of racial blood and flowing … The flowing of rivers is like the flowing of blood in the poem. And to know them is to know what is under or inside particular racial experience at the deepest level. (ENGL 310 Modern Poetry Lecture 15) The lecturer shows how Hughes implemented the idea of African American pride in his writings. Another common part of Harlem Renaissance literature is the celebration of African American pride. Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” uses metaphors to show how Africans and their experience over time are like a river that keeps on flowing.…

    • 984 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    “I, too, Sing America” refers to the daily struggle of Langston Hughes, while revealing that he is also a native born American and should receive the same benefits as the white man. The poem also symbolizes how unfair treatment to an African-American man or woman can not hinder growth, but allows one to become determined to pass or defeat injustice. Each of the four poems had to deal with black excellence or Langston Hughes trying to motivate the African-American community to improve in order to stand up against…

    • 1263 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Does African-American Literature Exist? African-American literature can be described in many different ways. According to Gibson, African-American literature should: empower the black community, convey the writer’s thoughts and meaning, and may or may not contain a political message (Gibson). However, in Warren’s piece, “Does African-American Literature Exist?” Warren questions whether there can be any new pieces of African-American Literature. Warren describes African-American literature as writings that depict a time in history.…

    • 800 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The Black Arts Movement

    • 657 Words
    • 3 Pages

    . Let Black people understand that they are the lovers and the sons of warriors and sons of warriors Are poems & poets & all the loveliness here in the world It ends with the following lines, a central assertion in both the Black Arts Movement and the philosophy of Black Power: We want a black poem. And a Black World. Let the world be a Black Poem And Let All Black People Speak This Poem Silently or LOUD The poem comes to stand for the attitude of Black America, the real urge in back of the Black Power movement. Which is the will toward self-determination and nationhood, an essential rearrangement of nature and function of both art and the artist.…

    • 657 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    DuBois avoids this problem right from the beginning of the book. He addresses the black person as a whole, as a spiritual, social being who holds fears and dreams. While DuBois is factual in his historical accounts regarding dates, people, and so forth, he uses stories as a sort of case study for the point he is trying to make at that time. The people in his stories have names, families, a voice, and a story. There are plenty of examples throughout the book, but one example worth noting is that of Josie and the community she lives in.…

    • 1225 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Although the scholars come up with useful definitions and explanations, debate arise within the field. The three debates I will briefly mentions are, the debate of hegemonic culture within African Diaspora, the debate of being part of the African Diaspora but also of other communities, and finally whether or not blackness and African culture mean the same…

    • 1633 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays