Background of Harlem

Langston Hughes was an iconic poet, writer and playwright of the Harlem Renaissance. When he wrote the poem “Harlem”, he was implying a theme of social injustice not only in Harlem, but in the whole of American life.

The poem was first published in the early 1950’s in his book “Montage of a Dream Deferred”, a collection of poems about the African-American experience. He wrote about his frustrations about the continued segregation, prejudice, and inequality of his black people.

The poem conveys the message that those who are downtrodden and treated unjustly by the social system must make a stand. Hughes writes that whilst despair is ever present in the things we cannot change, it is also important to fight for a better future through collective struggle and positive self-development.

Racial Inequality in the United States

Harlem is a vivid illustration of the inherent racial inequality in the United States. Many African-Americans feel unequally represented in the justice system and subject to institutionalized racism. In the poem, Hughes appeals to those who are enduring such injustices to keep striving.

The poem implores listeners to remain optimistic despite difficult conditions. He wrote that there is no need to wait for a revolution, as change could just as easily be achieved through accumulation of individual acts of resistance. However, these acts must be taken with love, understanding and a shared dream to bring about long-term justice for all.


The message of “Harlem” is one of hope and action in the face of inequality. Although injustices can seem insurmountable, collective change can be achieved through the small but significant acts of each individual. The poem seeks to empower those fighting for equality and justice, encouraging them to channel their feelings of disenfranchisement and despair into action.

In the poem, Hughes encourages readers and listeners to break the cycle of silence and to persist in their battle for racial equality, even in difficult times. He reflects the mood of the Harlem Renaissance, an era in which African-Americans sought to define the experience of life in the United States and to develop their own ways of expressing their identity.

Influence of Langston Hughes

The influence of “Harlem” and the impact of Hughes’s writing can be seen in the contemporary civil rights movements of the Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. These campaigns draw on the message of Hughes: that progress can be made through a collective effort. By following his words, we can bring about meaningful change.

The poem is still relevant today and serves to remind us of the importance of speaking out in the struggle against racial injustice. Hughes’ works remind us that although inequality and struggle can seem daunting, positive change is possible if we come together and stand up for ourselves and our rights.

Modern Context

Today, many people are revisiting Langston Hughes’s works and applying his message to the current context of racism and discrimination in the United States. In recent months, there have been a resurgence of protest, from Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March, demonstrating the direct impact of Hughes’s works in today’s society.

The poem “Harlem” is a timeless reminder of the power of collective action and self-empowerment. It is a reminder that we all have the power to speak out and challenge social injustices. And by working together and fighting for what is right, we can create positive change in our society.

Death of Hope

In the poem “Harlem”, Hughes suggests that without action, hope of locating social justice and equality fades. He emphasizes the need for individual effort in order to fight existing disparities and create lasting change. He fears that without resistance, African-Americans are at risk of losing their chance at achieving a just and equal society.

Without swift action, Hughes suggests, the dream of social justice will become a pipedream. He pleads with his audience not to become complacent and to keep striving for justice and equality, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Segregation in Education

In the poem, Hughes also addresses the crucial issues of segregated education, economic inequality and lack of equal access to resources – all of which cause African-Americans to suffer. He emphasizes the power of education as a route to progress, insisting that education should be seen as an antidote to poverty and oppression, and not a source of further inequality.

By writing the poem, Hughes challenged readers to consider how they were responsible for the status quo, stressing the importance of collective action. He suggested that the only way to affect positive change was through unified pressure and perseverance.

Inspirational Poem

Ultimately, the message of Hughes’s poem “Harlem” is an inspirational one. He urges readers and listeners to take action against inequality, rather than wait in despair. In his words, we are reminded of our collective capability to resist injustice and make a difference in our society.

In the poem, Hughes presents a powerful message: that hope is not lost and that collective action is the only way to achieve justice and equal rights. His words are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote them, and through them, Hughes implores us to never give up the fight for a better future.