When Was Mother To Son By Langston Hughes Written

Historical Context

Mother to Son is one of the most iconic poems by the African American poet and writer Langston Hughes. It was first published in the magazine Crisis in 1922. Hughes wrote the poem in response to the difficulties and injustices that Black Americans faced at the time. The poem’s title is a reference to the mothers of African Americans, persecuted by contemporary American society, who strove to raise their children in spite of the systemic racism they faced.

The Great Migration, a wave of 6 million African Americans leaving the South for the North, Midwest and West, was occurring during this period. This migration, combined with World War I and a shift of the country’s economic geography, caused increasing poverty and racial tensions in the North. African Americans faced discrimination, segregation, limited employment opportunities, unfair housing practices and a rise in anti-Black sentiment.

Mother to Son also reflects the hopes, dreams and individual spirit of resilience of Black mothers, in particular, and of African Americans in general.

Literary Significance

Mother to Son is considered one of the most important literary works of Langston Hughes. As the speaker in the poem, the mother advises her son not to give up hope, but to keep going despite the troubles and difficulties they both face.

The poem’s metaphor of the “stairs” (which, in this context, can be taken to symbolize the journey of life) is particularly notable. The mother urges her son not to give up despite the obstacles he may encounter, suggesting that life, though difficult, still has some possibilities for success.

The poem, written in free verse, follows an irregular rhythm and is heavily infused with symbolism. Through the poem, Hughes conveys a sense of optimism and hope, despite the grim circumstances and grim outlook on life in America at the time.

Structure and Theme

The poem is a single stanza of 19 lines. It is written in free verse and follows an unconventional rhyme scheme, with the last words of each line rhyming but not conforming to a set pattern.

The poem’s theme can be seen as one of hope in the face of adversity and oppression, symbolized by the mother’s advice. She urges her son to be resilient and never give up, even when it seems as if the odds are stacked against him. This theme is echoed in the poem’s structure, which emphasizes the mother’s message and provides a metaphor of hope.

Critical Reception

Mother to Son was an instant success when it was published in Crisis magazine, and it quickly became one of Langston Hughes’s most celebrated works. It is considered a poetic testament to the dignity and resilience of African American people in the face of the obstacles and discrimination they faced.

The poem has been praised for its simplicity, its musicality and its powerful message. In addition, the poem has been hailed for its use of language and its imagery, which has been described as both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Mother to Son is widely considered one of the most important works of Langston Hughes, and it has been praised by critics and readers alike. It has been included in numerous anthologies of Hughes’ works and in various collections of modern poetry.

Social Impact

Mother to Son has resonated with readers around the world since its publication. Its message of resilience has been used to inspire and empower people, especially those facing oppression or discrimination. Moreover, its theme of hope in the face of adversity has been embraced by marginalized communities, who see it as a symbol of their shared struggles and their collective strength.

The poem has been used time and time again to rally civil rights advocates, to motivate people in their fight against injustice, and to emphasize the importance of hope, no matter what the circumstances are. It has become a symbol of the strength of African American people and a source of inspiration for many.

Personal Reflections

As an African American, Mother to Son has always held a special meaning for me. The poem’s powerful message of hope and resilience has helped to keep me going during difficult times. Its message has also resonated with countless other people–it is a poem that has the potential to move anyone who reads it.

I believe that the poem’s lasting power comes from its ability to make us reflect on our own lives, to think about our struggles and to consider the many possibilities for overcoming them. It is a poem about endurance, about taking courage in the face of adversity and about never giving up, no matter how difficult the situation.

Rhetoric Style

Mother to Son employs the rhetoric of a mother and a teacher. The mother speaks to her son in a caring voice, providing guidance and advice. At the same time, she uses her voice as a teacher, instilling in her son lessons and wisdom that will help him on his journey. The poem also employs a conversational tone and a sense of rhythm, making it easy to read and understand.

Hughes uses repetition throughout the poem, repeating words and phrases to emphasize his message. This repetition contributes to the poem’s memorable and reassuring tone. Moreover, the poem’s syntax is crafted in such a way as to create a sense of urgency–the speaker is determined to pass on her wisdom and to encourage her son not to give up.

Allusions and Metaphor

The poem alludes to several significant figures in African American history, including Harriet Tubman, who famously fought for the end of slavery and the emancipation of enslaved Blacks. The poem also makes reference to W. E. B. Du Bois, a renowned sociologist and leader in the civil rights movement, who fought for the equality of all races. The metaphor of the “stairs” (life’s journey) is also a key element of the poem.

The use of these allusions and metaphors serves to bolster the poem’s message of hope and resilience. In addition, they provide an example of what is possible, even in the most difficult circumstances, and they help to inspire readers to keep on fighting.

Conclusion of the Poem’s Legacy

Mother to Son is one of the most influential and enduring works of Langston Hughes. It has had a tremendous impact, both on the literary world and on society at large. Its lasting legacy is one of hope, determination and resilience in the face of adversity. The poem has inspired countless people and has become a symbol of strength and courage for those who struggle against long odds.

Mother to Son may be almost a century old, but its message is as relevant and powerful today as it was when it was first written. It is a testament to Langston Hughes’ genius, and to the enduring power of poetry.

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.

Leave a Comment