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Hughes of Color

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Hughes of Color

Langston Hughes poem "Harlem" was written in 1951. Hughes allows this poem to represent his voice against deferring dreams to those who could cheat themselves of their dreams. At the same time he warns those that perhaps these oppressed dreams could explode because of individuals who might interfere with others dreams. He uses the destructive imagery to reinforce the theme of racism on blacks and the dreams they attempt to fulfill. Hughes discretely links the violent atmosphere between black and whites in the 1950s. In the poem Harlem we see Langston Hughes becoming an educator to other young blacks, who, because of their social disadvantage conditions, easily let their dreams die.

Hughes begins the poem by asking what happens to dreams that have become deferred. He asks "Does it dry up/Like a raisin in the sun," (Hughes 690). A raisin has a purpose because it possesses a nutritional value. If left out in the sun it dries up it loses that value. The raisin turns hard and can no longer serve its intended function. The same goes for dreams. Dreams pushed to side and ignored too long will lose purpose and health aspect. Hughes' work explains to the reader that a healthy part of life pertains to having dream.

Hughes continues to demonstrate health as an important aspect of life in his next question. He inquires, "Or fester up like a sore-/And then run," (690). The ultimate goal for someone with a sore is for it to heal. A sore in the 1950s that got infected could cause irritation or even death. An individual must contain this festered sore before it spreads. The Jim Crow Encyclopedia: Greenwood Milestones in African American History says few poverty stricken African Americans sought professional medical care, the main reason due to the fact they could not afford it, therefore did not seek it (Brown and Stentiford 363). Hughes informs his reader that they must take care of themselves. I also believe that he connects racism to the same question. He implies the idea that denying an individual's dream could cause hatred to fester up towards the oppressor and relates it to a sore. He uses this figurative language to describe the consequences the festering emotions of racism running ramped. This sore symbolizes racism in the society of the United States causing irritation and even death in the same way a physical sore can. Having the ability to contain your festering emotion similar to the way you do with an infected sore is beneficial in a healthy society. The poem shows Hughes trying to suggest individuals to take care of themselves as well as others.

He reinforces the idea of caring for others in the poem with a heavy load. Hughes text could translates into a dream that slows a person down because the dream is too big. A person who pulls an excessively heavy load will eventually tire and never reach their destination. I believe it translate into the need of more support to prevent these dreams from sagging. The Encyclopedia of Harlem Renaissance states, "Harlem artists used their isolation to form a new artistic community" (Wintz and Finkleman 1341). Hughes' title confirms that place for African American to go for additional support to fulfill their dreams that could not be obtained elsewhere. Harlem offered a lot of support for blacks in America. According to The Harlem Renaissance, Harlem had the title of "the black capitol" of the world (Rau 10), and that the two square miles of Harlem inhabited more African American than anywhere else in the world (11). Harlem does not only provide a title for Hughes' work but he offers a place for people to go for support towards their dreams.

Although Harlem represented a place to accomplish dreams it did not guarantee financial success. In the poem Hughes illustrates rotten meat to dreams that have taken a detour. Meat not stored properly will eventually go bad. Hughes tells the reader that dreams, like meat, must be dealt with in a timely manner to benefit fully from it. Not all residents of Harlem had refrigerators. William Flores wrote The Founding: Journey of a Street Child and in that he says, "There was the iceman who sold large blocks of the frozen water to our neighbors who didn't own refrigerators" (10).



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