The Themes of Racial Pride and Personal Dignity in the Poetry of Langston Hughes

Subject: Literature
Pages: 5
Words: 1122
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

Racial pride and personal dignity

Langston Hughes conveyed his willpower to write valiantly, brazenly, and impenitently concerning the life of the black working class regardless of great resistance and opposition. Even after he deliberately broke the political ties, he went on writing bold plays and poems that brilliantly expressed the struggle for personal dignity and revulsion for the evils of racial pride and oppression. Even though sometimes Langston was a radical author and was forceful when addressing different issues he showed great pride in being a black man and having an African culture. He valued his work of poetry; he was acknowledged as a figure of optimism in the eyes of the black race and his work stirred pride and vitality in African-American community.

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“I Too”

Racial pride and personal dignity are themes that run-through numerous literature genres. There are several different ways in which one may interpret these themes. Racial pride for example has been expressed in the poem “I Too.” In this poem he expounds that black people had to be segregated from other people in the society. He uses creative imagery to describe kitchen as a distinct place but with strength. Through this he implies that separation from the society can feel like being separated from the guests in the house however he also shows how being segregated made him a stronger person in accepting other people as-well-as setting-aside the ignorance of the society. This creates an ironical twist and shows the reader that the narrator was proud to be black.

Additionally, he uses the poem’s structure to show the reader how the narrator changes from who he is at present and what he aspires to be in the future. The poem also shows the pain and anguish the black people went through during slavery. At the end of the poem, he states how white people were wrong and claims that one day they will realize that black people are important people in the society. Hughes talks about accepting one’s cultural background and maintaining personal dignity no matter the circumstances. Being proud of one’s race is accepting one’s uniqueness and strength.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” the author narrates about the evolution of a black man to America. The poem points-out individual dignity and racial pride. The tone of the poem and use of symbolism creates a clear image of dignity and race. In the poem, the use of “I” signifies the black community as one, the “river” represent a source of life; it is used as a metaphor. Through the use of “rivers,” Hughes depicts the combination of African-American cultures. The river has also been used as a great metaphor signifying Hughes’ infinite soul. Hughes draws great spiritual strength and his black individuality from his affluent familial heritage. Personal dignity and racial pride are the attributes of this renowned black man.

In his poetry, Hughes promoted egalitarianism, racial justice and the expressive culture of African-Americans. His greatest poetry achievement was the ability to change his own misery into the distress experienced by an entire race and sometimes, the whole humankind. When he wrote this line ‘’I’ve known rivers as ancient as the world,” he wanted to reveal to his audience that diverse Negro communities existed since the early days of civilization. In the poem, the author speaks about Negro communities and their existence in history. Through his poetry, his urge was to achieve solidarity, autonomy, human dignity and racial pride.

“Dinner Guest: Me”

In the poem “Dinner Guest: Me” there is the issue of prejudice. The dinner table signifies the black people and their place in the society. Hughes sitting at the dinner table demonstrates blacks’ attempts to feel equal as portrayed in the first stanza. The entire concept of the poem depicts the description of humankind. The poem does not define an American but it expounds on why an American shouldn’t be judged by their color of skin. Hughes felt that blacks were treated unfairly; he believed that their rights should be equal to those of whites without compromising their personal dignity. He used poetry and prose as a tool to convey the enormous sense of racial pride which he felt was a significant attribute to African-American people. In this poem, Hughes’ pride in his race is obvious when the speaker explicates that “To be a Problem on Park Avenue at eight is not so bad.”

At the end of the poem, the author writes “Solutions to the Problem, of course, wait,” his delight over the society gradually gaining awareness of the racial problems he encountered is expressed. Racial pride is very prevalent in his work; Hughes believes that when people become proud of their race, they maintain their personal dignity and this dignity shouldn’t be comprised. He incorporates this theme in his work; he does not only display the pride he feels for his race but he also builds awareness of the heritage of a Negro. Through this, he shows his readers that black people have a history that they should take pride in.

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Langston Hughes’ “Cross” addresses the issue of stereotype; in the first stanza he wrote that his old man was white and that his mother was black. He revealed that he had cursed his white father but now he wants to take-back the curses. He also cursed his mother and wished she would burn in Hell but now he wishes to make an apology for wishing her harm. He changed his standpoint concerning his parents and wanted to wish them well. In the second stanza it is evident he cursed them but now he wishes to take-back those curses. This poem portrays a stereotype of the different mixed races.

In the same stanza, Hughes claimed that he was perhaps not raised by his two parents. His father passed away as a rich man and this is signified by the “fine big house,” while his mother died poor, this is signified by the “shack.” This made Hughes wonder where he will die. Stanza three reveals that he wondered whether black people always die in shacks while the white people die in fine huge houses. Stereotypes emerge from different racial backgrounds; racial pride enables people to overlook these stereotypes thus acquiring personal dignity.


Even though some of these cultural issues may appear incongruous for contemporary society, Hughes’ poems nonetheless keep on creating enthusiastic messages for people who read them. Hence, for example, indigenous aspects within literature keep on reminding the reader of the linked civilization and backgrounds. Additionally, although the contemporary society has developed significantly in reference to civil rights, the emphasis on racial pride and personal dignity is nevertheless vital and indispensable elements of “black” literature.