“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was written with a spirit of celebration for African American people during a time when they faced great intolerance and oppression. It praises the roots, heritage, and soul of a creative and beautiful culture. The African Americans of this time went on to produce a plethora of musicians, writers, artists, and activists during the Harlem Renaissance and paved a way for future generations.
Though Hughes directed his bold voice at audiences of African American people, many have come to heed and appreciate his words even today.
Please enjoy “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” below.
I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Langston Hughes
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