Langston Hughes remains a leading activist in the civil rights movement, from the early 1900s till this day. He fought against all forms of racism and discrimination, and his methods of doing so made him stand out so much, his literature. Hughes is famously known for all his written works in which he promotes equality, condemns racism and injustice, and celebrates African American culture.
Although his general written works are celebrated and are highly regarded, his poems stick out more. An example of a well acclaimed poem from Hughes is, As I Grew Older, one of his earlier poems, and was written between 1921 to 1930. A big inspiration of Hughes’s works was Walt Whitman, a human activist, journalist, and the “father of free verse”. Anyway, Whitman’s footprints could be seen all over this poem. An example of this was the poem being a free verse. The lines are unequal, there is no rhythm, and no beats can be made from the poem. Another example is the optimism Hughes shows when he speaks about how dire his situation is. He speaks about his dreams being blocked off by an insurmountable wall, “My hands! My dark hands! Break through the wall!” (ll, 24-26), but he still urges himself forward against the overwhelming challenge.
There are obvious themes in this poem; racism and dreams. Racism is a major theme in this poem, as it is in Hughes’ other works. Several policies were set up against African Americans, making their lives much harder and as a result a “wall” was created. Dreams were also discussed. Dreams are born out of human desire to achieve something, but Hughes’ and other African American’s are being blocked. Hughes doesn’t specify but he makes it clear how much his dreams means to him, as he compares it to the brightness and power of the sun. “But it was there then, In front of me, Bright like a sun, My dream” (ll, 3-6).
Hughes explains his and many other black Americans’ circumstance. They have dreams, big dreams, but they can’t achieve it because of who they are, because of their skin. No matter how hard he works or dreams, his dream just can’t seem to come to fruition, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.
This poem truly embodies the essence of Hughes’ works (from the ones I’ve read), it discusses racism and discrimination, and the putting out of a fire (his dream), but he never leaves out the hope and optimism.