What Did Langston Hughes Fear

What Did Langston Hughes Fear

Langston Hughes was an influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic and ideological movement that helped to establish a cultural identity for African-Americans in the early twentieth century. Much of Hughes’ work focused on his experiences as an African-American, particularly his struggles for equality and inclusion. As Hughes wrote about his experiences, he also touched on broader topics, such as the African-American experience during his time, as well as his own personal fears.

One of Hughes’ predominant fears was of being forgotten. Although he achieved considerable success during his lifetime, Hughes worried that his work would be ignored or overshadowed by later generations. He sought to make his work as timeless as possible by writing about issues that would remain relevant well into the future. As he wrote in his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, Hughes felt that it was his obligation as an African-American poet to “express the dark souls of a people and fight for their emancipation”. This desire to be remembered by history greatly informed his work.

In addition to the fear of being forgotten, Hughes was also concerned with racial discrimination and inequality during his lifetime. This was largely due to his experiences as an African-American during the Jim Crow era, when racial segregation was commonplace. In his poem “I, Too”, Hughes wrote about how African-Americans were “shut out from life’s feast” and felt “bruised and bleeded” by discrimination. Such pervasive inequalities prompted Hughes to write about the need for social and political progress, and fight against injustice.

Finally, Hughes was also fearful of conformity and complacency. He felt that too many members of the African-American community had become too comfortable with their status and ceased to push for progress. In his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, Hughes wrote that “too many in our ranks fear any departure from the customary”. He felt that in order to ensure progress, African-Americans had to step out of their comfort zones and challenge existing systems of oppression.

African American Music of the Time

Hughes, as a poet and artist of the African-American experience, was also heavily influenced by the music of his time. During the Harlem Renaissance, jazz and blues were at the forefront of African-American musical culture and many of Hughes’ poems drew from the same themes. In his poem “I, Too”, Hughes wrote of being “discarded” yet “untroubled…in my quiet room”, a sentiment which is echoed in the lyrics of countless blues songs. Hughes’ writing also drew on the improvisational nature of jazz, with many of his works having a spontaneous, almost improvised feel to them.

Music was also a source of joy and entertainment for Hughes. In his essay “My Patria” he wrote of his fondness for “the old sad songs, the blues,” and how they were able to lift his spirits in difficult times. This idea of music as a source of comfort and escape is also a common theme in Hughes’ writing, with many of his works serving as odes to various forms of African-American music and culture.

Finally, music also served as a means of political protest during the Harlem Renaissance. Artists such as Fats Waller, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday wrote and performed songs that addressed racial injustice and inequality in the country, giving voice to African-Americans and inspiring Hughes’ own work.

The Influence of Langston Hughes’ Work

Due to Hughes’ prominent role in the Harlem Renaissance, his work has had a lasting influence on African-American culture. His poetry and essays served to bridge the divide between the African-American experience and mainstream American culture, providing insight into racial oppression and inequality.

In addition, Hughes’ work inspired many African-American writers of the 20th century. Writers such as James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka cited Hughes as a major influence, and sought to continue his legacy of writing about the African American experience. Hughes’ influence has also been felt in the worlds of fiction and music, with many authors and musicians using his writings as inspiration.

Finally, Hughes’ work has also been used as a tool to inspire social and political progress. His poetry has been cited as a major source of inspiration for the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, and his works continue to be used as rallying cries for progress and inclusion.

The Legacy of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes left behind him a remarkable legacy, one that is still felt to this day. His work continues to inspire and inform African-American literature, and his influence can still be seen in politics and popular culture. Through his work, Hughes was able to capture a unique moment in American history and provide insight into the African-American experience, creating a timeless document of his era.

However, perhaps Hughes’ greatest legacy is his unwavering insistence on progress. He wrote and spoke of a “mountain of race” which had yet to be conquered, and his words continue to resonate with those seeking equality and inclusion. In this way, Hughes was able to transcend his fear of being forgotten and ensure his legacy will live on.

The Prevalence of Racism

In the years since Hughes’ death, the problem of racism has not gone away. Despite the progress that has been made, discrimination and inequality remain prevalent throughout the country. African-Americans continue to disproportionately bear the burden of poverty and injustice, facing higher levels of unemployment, incarceration and police violence.

The issue of racism is also increasingly visible in the political sphere. Politicians at all levels continue to make statements that are divisive and promote racist viewpoints. Furthermore, the current administration has rolled back policies that protected minority communities, such as the reversal of affirmative action. This has had a direct effect on the African-American community, as well as other minority groups.

Racism has also become more blatant in recent years, as hate crimes have become increasingly frequent. Throughout the country, individuals and organizations have become emboldened by the current political climate, leading to an upsurge of hate speech and violence. Although these issues are often not covered in the mainstream media, they still have a direct effect on the African-American community.

The Resistance to Racism

In response to this persistent racism, many African-American activists have mobilized to fight for their rights. Protestors have taken to the streets to demonstrate against oppressive policies, often citing the words of Langston Hughes in their speeches. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has also become a major force for change and is continuing to fight for justice and equality in the African-American community.

Moreover, African-American communities have sought to build a support structure for their members, providing access to resources that are often not available in mainstream society. These organizations provide mentorship and guidance, as well as a safe space for those seeking to make a change. These efforts have helped to re-energize the African-American community and ensure that their voices will continue to be heard.

Finally, the internet has provided African-Americans with a platform to share their stories and be heard. In this age of technology, stories that may have been overlooked in the past now have a platform to be told, ensuring that all voices can be represented.


Langston Hughes overcame his fears, leaving behind a legacy of hope and progress for African-Americans. He was able to fight for justice and equality during his lifetime, and his works continue to be a source of inspiration for those who are facing similar struggles today. Although racism has yet to be eradicated from society, there are many activists, organizations and individuals who are working tirelessly to overcome this problem. In this way, Hughes’ legacy lives on.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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