Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes Poems

Langston Hughes had a five-decade career in which he wrote short stories, poems, plays, books for children, as well as newspaper columns, and novels. He is considered today as one of the, if not the, most important writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Read more about Langston Hughes.

Harlem (A Dream Deferred)

by Langston Hughes

‘Harlem (A Dream Deferred)’ by Langston Hughes is a powerful poem. The poet wrote it in response to what he felt as a black man navigating a career and personal life in a white-dominated world.

Langston Hughes was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and cultural movement that emerged in the 1920s and 30s in Harlem, New York. His poetry often explored the experiences of African Americans and their struggles for identity, equality, and social justice. 'Harlem (A Dream Deferred)' is one of his most famous poems and is noted for its use of vivid imagery, repetition, and rhetorical questions.

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?


Suicide’s Note

by Langston Hughes

‘Suicide’s Note’ is a three-line poem that speaks from the perspective of someone who wants to take their own life. They feel the “cool face” of the river asking them for a “kiss.”

This beautiful and dark Langston Hughes poem addresses the serious issue of suicide and the psychological state of a person contemplating suicide. The poem portrays the dark and ominous thoughts that may go through the mind of someone considering taking their own life but does so through three very thoughtful and beautiful lines of verse.

The calm, 

Cool face of the river

Asked me for a kiss. 

To a Dead Friend

by Langston Hughes

‘To a Dead Friend’ by Langston Hughes is a depressing poem about the ways death can permanently alter one’s ability to see or feel joy.

It might not be the most famous of Langston Hughes' poems but it does reveal the author's masterful control of building emotion in his writing. The unembellished diction and striking imagery do well to create a drearily accurate impression of the sadness the author is trying to communicate and illustrate for the reader.

The moon still sends its mellow light

Through the purple blackness of the night;

The morning star is palely bright

Before the dawn. 

As I Grew Older

by Langston Hughes

‘As I Grew Older’ by Langston Hughes is about breaking through the “wall” that racism constructs. The speaker, a Black man from the African American community, spends the poem discussing the light of forgotten dreams he’s newly determined to attain.

It was a long time ago.

I have almost forgotten my dream.

But it was there then,

In front of me,

Daybreak in Alabama

by Langston Hughes

Music is a powerful tool to bring harmony even in the cacophonic world, filled with inequality, injustice, and racial discrimination. In ‘Daybreak in Alabama,’ Langston Hughes tries to create a harmonious world by creating music of equality and brotherhood.

When I get to be a colored composer

I'm gonna write me some music about

Daybreak in Alabama

And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it

Explore more poems from Langston Hughes

Dream Boogie

by Langston Hughes

‘Dream Boogie’ by Langston Hughes is a poem about jazz, creativity, and the oppression of Black Americans. It was written during the Harlem Renaissance. 

Good morning daddy!

Ain't you heard

The boogie-woogie rumble

Of a dream deferred?


by Langston Hughes

‘Dreams’ is a two-stanza poem that highlights the value of “dreams” by presenting two situations that revolve around the loss of those “dreams.”

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

I Dream a World

by Langston Hughes

‘I Dream A World’ by Langston Hughes is a powerful, short poem that outlines the poet’s vision of a utopian world. There, no one is judged on the color of their skin and all people have access to the same freedoms.

I dream a world where man

No other man will scorn,

Where love will bless the earth

And peace its paths adorn

I, Too, Sing America

by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ poem ‘I, Too, Sing America’ is an incredibly personal poem Hughes wrote, highlighting American Society and a Black man’s experience in it.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

Kids Who Die

by Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,

Black and white,

For kids will die certainly.

The old and rich will live on awhile,

Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

‘Let America Be America Again’ by Langston Hughes is concerned with the modern United States. Hughes discusses the nature of dreams and who gets to have them come true.

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

Life is Fine

by Langston Hughes

‘Life is Fine’ by Langston Hughes is a playful ditty. The poem is about a man who is suffering and contemplating suicide but is still able to see the beauty in life.

I went down to the river,

I set down on the bank.

I tried to think but couldn't,

So I jumped in and sank.

Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

‘Mother to Son’ by Langston Hughes uses the metaphor of a staircase to depict the difficulties and dangers one will face in life.

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

My People

by Langston Hughes

‘My People’ by Langston Hughes is a passionate and celebratory poem. In it, Hughes’ speaker focuses on the diverse lives of people in his community.




Loud laughers in the hands of Fate—

Still Here

by Langston Hughes

‘Still here’ by Langston Hughes is a poem that is grounded in varying grammar concepts to indicate weariness through struggle and clarity after the struggle concludes.

I been scared and battered.

My hopes the wind done scattered.

   Snow has friz me,

   Sun has baked me,

The Ballad of the Landlord

by Langston Hughes

‘The Ballad of the Landlord’ is a poem that explores the relationship between a Black tenant and his white landlord. The latter refuses to fulfill his duties and the former ends up in jail.

Landlord, landlord,

My roof has sprung a leak.

Don't you 'member I told you about it

Way last week?

The Negro Mother

by Langston Hughes

Children, I come back today

To tell you a story of the long dark way

That I had to climb, that I had to know

In order that the race might live and grow.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by Langston Hughes

’The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ is about a man who has seen the great ages of the world alongside the banks of the most important rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

The Weary Blues

by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,

Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,

     I heard a Negro play.

Down on Lenox Avenue the other night

Theme for English B

by Langston Hughes

‘Theme for English B’ is one of Langston Hughes’ best-known poems. It delves into themes of identity and race through the depiction of a black man’s writing assignment.

I wonder if it’s that simple?

I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.

I went to school there, then Durham, then here

to this college on the hill above Harlem.

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