Langston Hughes composed a scathing poem, "Freedom Train," in which he detailed the segregated southern states as the Freedom Train passed through, with black and white passengers riding in separate compartments. The train was actually called the Natchez, Mississippi & Southern Railway Company's Double-Decker Holiday Coach. In addition to blacks and whites being separated, the coach also separated men from women—a common practice at the time for both black and white passengers.
Hughes' poem is as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1951. His treatment of the subject matter then can't be treated now as anything other than prophetic. Then as now, racial divisions divided not only the south but the country as a whole. And just as segregation on the trains was seen as acceptable then, so too are racial divisions seen as acceptable today. But unlike what was accepted back then, such beliefs are not held by many today.
Hughes wrote several more poems over his lifetime, some of which were quite positive regarding race relations in the future. But "Freedom Train" remains his best-known work today, especially given its relevance to today's society.
Hughes composed I, Too in free verse and with simple terminology from the universal point of view of an African American, so that the thoughts and opinions stated in his poem may be understood as those of any African American at the time.
He wanted to demonstrate that blacks were not alone in their suffering and show that racism was common to all people. He also wanted to express his anger at injustice.
Langston Hughes was a poet, journalist, and civil rights activist who worked during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in 1892 into a family of well-to-do black farmers in Virginia, he moved with his parents to New York when he was eleven years old. There he became involved in the black arts movement and met other poets such as Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, and Jean Toomer. He published his first collection of poems, The Weary Black Widow, in 1923. In it he expressed his views on racial inequality and discrimination. He also protested against the treatment of blacks by police officers throughout America. In 1931, Hughes helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Two years later, he co-authored Negroes in America with Cullen and Fauset. In it they described the struggles faced by blacks in the United States today. In addition, the book discussed possible solutions for these problems.
Langston Hughes was an African American writer whose poetry, articles, novels, and plays catapulted him to prominence during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. His works, which include The Weary Blues, a collection of poems about life in Harlem, deal extensively with issues such as racism, self-hate, and homosexuality. Hughes also fought for civil rights throughout his life.
Hughes was born on May 11, 1902, in New York City, the son of Julia Jackson Hughes and William Bell Hughes. His father was white and his mother was black. Because of this racial mixture, Langston Hughes was considered white at birth and lived with his family until the age of four, when he moved into an apartment across the street from where his parents ran their bookstore. He wrote about these early years in his first book, I Wonder As I Wander (1940).
In 1919, his father died, probably of a drug overdose. After this devastating loss, Hughes's mother decided to move her family to Ohio so that she could start over with nothing. She sold all their belongings and gave away most of the money they had saved up to pay for Langston's private school education. She wanted her son to have a better life than hers at a time when being black in America was very difficult.
Hughes composed the poem while crossing the Mississippi River on his way to visit his father in Mexico when he was seventeen. It was initially published in The Crisis the next year, establishing Hughes' literary career. The poem is often considered one of the first examples of modern poetry.
The reference is to the Mississippi River. Before the river was bridged, it was possible to travel from New Orleans to St. Louis by boat. Crossing the river was not easy, because the water was frequently too deep or rapids were present. But for those who could do it, the experience was well worth it. The poet himself had good reasons to appreciate the beauty of the river. His family lived in Louisiana and Missouri, two states that were then part of the United States. Perhaps this is why Hughes chose to cross the river when he was going to see them anyway.
In addition to being a famous author, Hughes was also black. This fact may explain why some people think that the poem is about slavery. But it's not really about slavery per se, it's about freedom and self-determination. Even though slavery once existed on both sides of the river, it was ending in the South but still existed in the North. That's why Hughes can say that the river is "great" even if most people at the time didn't feel free to go wherever they wanted.