'The Negro Mother' by Langston Hughes

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Children, I come back todayTo tell you a story of the long dark wayThat I had to climb, that I had to knowIn order that the race might live and grow.Look at my face -- dark as the night --Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.I am the dark girl who crossed the red seaCarrying in my body the seed of the free.I am the woman who worked in the fieldBringing the cotton and the corn to yield.I am the one who labored as a slave,Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave --Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too.No safety , no love, no respect was I due.Three hundred years in the deepest South:But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth .God put a dream like steel in my soul.Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.Now, through my children, young and free,I realized the blessing deed to me.I couldn't read then. I couldn't write.I had nothing, back there in the night.Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears,But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun,But I had to keep on till my work was done:I had to keep on! No stopping for me --I was the seed of the coming Free.I nourished the dream that nothing could smotherDeep in my breast -- the Negro mother.I had only hope then , but now through you,Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true:All you dark children in the world out there,Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.Remember my years, heavy with sorrow --And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.Make of my pass a road to the lightOut of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.Lift high my banner out of the dust.Stand like free men supporting my trust.Believe in the right, let none push you back.Remember the whip and the slaver's track.Remember how the strong in struggle and strifeStill bar you the way, and deny you life --But march ever forward, breaking down bars.Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayersImpel you forever up the great stairs --For I will be with you till no white brotherDares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"The Negro Mother" by Langston Hughes: An Ode to Resilience and Empowerment

As Langston Hughes once said, "I am a Negro—and beautiful." These words, spoken by one of the most celebrated poets of the Harlem Renaissance, encapsulate the essence of his powerful poem "The Negro Mother." Published in 1931, this work of art is a testament to the strength, courage, and perseverance of black women, who have endured centuries of oppression, slavery, and racism. With its vivid imagery, rich symbolism, and powerful language, "The Negro Mother" is a literary masterpiece that continues to inspire and empower generations of readers.

The Context and Historical Background of "The Negro Mother"

Before we delve into the poem itself, it is essential to understand the context and historical background in which it was written. Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, at a time when America was deeply divided along racial lines. He grew up in a world that was hostile to black people, where segregation, lynching, and discrimination were commonplace. Despite these challenges, he became one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, using his art as a means of social and political commentary.

"The Negro Mother" was written during the Great Depression, a period of intense economic hardship that affected millions of Americans, especially African Americans. At the time, many black people were migrating from the South to the North in search of better opportunities, but they faced numerous obstacles, including unemployment, poverty, and racism. Hughes wrote this poem as a response to these challenges, offering a message of hope and resilience to his fellow black Americans.

The Structure and Themes of "The Negro Mother"

"The Negro Mother" is a narrative poem that tells the story of a black mother who imparts wisdom and strength to her children. It is divided into five stanzas, each of which has a distinct theme and purpose. The first stanza introduces the mother and sets the tone for the poem, emphasizing her strength, beauty, and dignity. It also establishes the metaphorical framework of the poem, comparing the mother to various natural elements such as the roots of a tree, the sun, and the sea.

The second stanza focuses on the historical legacy of slavery and the struggles of black people throughout history. It describes the horrors of the middle passage, the brutality of slave life, and the resilience of black people in the face of oppression. The third stanza shifts the focus to the present, describing the challenges that black people face in contemporary America, including poverty, discrimination, and violence.

The fourth stanza is the emotional climax of the poem, as the mother implores her children to never give up or lose faith. She tells them to hold on to their dreams and aspirations, no matter how difficult or impossible they may seem. The final stanza brings the poem to a powerful conclusion, as the mother reiterates her message of hope and empowerment, urging her children to rise up and overcome the obstacles that stand in their way.

The Imagery and Symbolism of "The Negro Mother"

One of the most striking features of "The Negro Mother" is its powerful imagery and symbolism. Hughes uses vivid and evocative language to paint a picture of the black experience, both past and present. For example, in the second stanza, he describes the Middle Passage as a "sea of death," emphasizing the horrors and brutality of the slave trade. He also uses the metaphor of a "mighty tree" to describe the mother's strength and resilience, comparing her roots to the ancestral legacy of black people.

In addition to these powerful images, Hughes also employs a range of powerful symbols throughout the poem. For example, he uses the sun as a symbol of hope and freedom, describing how it "burns on in the night" and "lights the way for tomorrow." He also uses the image of a "dream" to symbolize the aspirations and hopes of black people, urging his readers to hold on to their dreams and never let go.

The Language and Style of "The Negro Mother"

Another notable aspect of "The Negro Mother" is its rich and powerful language. Hughes uses a variety of poetic devices, including simile, metaphor, and personification, to create a vivid and compelling picture of the black experience. He also employs a range of rhetorical devices, including repetition, alliteration, and rhyme, to create a musical and rhythmic effect.

The style of the poem is also notable for its simplicity and directness. Hughes does not use elaborate or obscure language, but instead relies on clear and concise phrases to convey his message. This simplicity makes the poem accessible to a wide audience, regardless of their level of education or literary background.

The Significance and Legacy of "The Negro Mother"

"The Negro Mother" is a poem of enduring significance, not only for its literary value, but also for its social and political impact. It is a powerful testament to the resilience and strength of black women, who have been at the forefront of the struggle for equality and justice. It offers a message of hope and empowerment to all those who have been oppressed, marginalized, or disenfranchised.

In addition to its social and political significance, "The Negro Mother" also has a significant literary legacy. It is one of Hughes's most celebrated poems, and has been anthologized and studied by scholars and readers around the world. It has inspired numerous other writers and artists, and continues to be a source of inspiration and empowerment for generations of readers.


In conclusion, "The Negro Mother" is a literary masterpiece that speaks to the heart and soul of the black experience. With its powerful imagery, rich symbolism, and direct language, it offers a message of hope and resilience to all those who have faced oppression and injustice. It is a testament to the strength and power of black women, who have been the backbone of the black community for generations. As Langston Hughes once said, "My soul has grown deep like the rivers." In "The Negro Mother," his soul is reflected in the deep and powerful words that continue to inspire and empower us all.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Negro Mother: A Poem of Strength and Resilience

Langston Hughes, one of the most prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote "The Negro Mother" in 1931. The poem is a powerful tribute to the strength and resilience of African American women, who have endured centuries of oppression and discrimination. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism of this classic poem.

The poem is written in free verse, with no set rhyme scheme or meter. This allows Hughes to use language in a more flexible and expressive way, creating a sense of urgency and emotion. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with a different focus and tone.

The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the central figure of the poem, the Negro mother. She is described as a "great dark house" that has "stood for long years" and has "weathered the storms of time." This metaphorical description suggests that the Negro mother is a symbol of stability and endurance, a source of strength for her community.

The second stanza focuses on the history of slavery and the suffering of African Americans. Hughes uses vivid imagery to describe the horrors of slavery, such as "the crack of the whip" and "the lash of the slave-master." The Negro mother is portrayed as a witness to this history, who has "seen the cotton grow and the blossom end" and has "seen the long years and the prisons grey."

The third stanza shifts the focus to the present, and the struggles that African Americans continue to face. The Negro mother is described as a "rock in a weary land," a source of comfort and support for her children. Hughes uses repetition to emphasize the challenges that African Americans face, such as "the hunger and the pain" and "the insults and the hate."

The fourth stanza is a call to action, urging African Americans to rise up and fight for their rights. The Negro mother is portrayed as a leader, who "calls her children home" and "points their way to freedom's shore." Hughes uses powerful imagery to describe the struggle for freedom, such as "the chains of slavery's years" and "the blood of martyred tears."

The fifth stanza is a celebration of African American culture and heritage. The Negro mother is described as a "keeper of the hearth-fire" who "sings the songs that the darkness hears." Hughes uses imagery to evoke the richness and beauty of African American culture, such as "the beat of the tom-tom" and "the rhythm of the jazz-band."

The final stanza is a message of hope and resilience. The Negro mother is portrayed as a symbol of endurance, who "has been a slave, she has been a queen." Hughes uses repetition to emphasize the message of the poem, that despite the hardships and struggles, African Americans will continue to rise up and overcome.

Overall, "The Negro Mother" is a powerful tribute to the strength and resilience of African American women. Hughes uses vivid imagery and powerful language to evoke the history, struggles, and triumphs of the African American community. The poem is a call to action, urging African Americans to rise up and fight for their rights, while also celebrating their culture and heritage. It is a timeless reminder of the power of poetry to inspire and uplift, and a testament to the enduring legacy of Langston Hughes.

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